Letters [July-August 2013)

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  July-August 2013:


Corrections:  Saving Baby

The printed version of Debra J. White’s May/June 2013 review of the book Saving Baby:  How a woman’s love for a racehorse leads to her redemption,  by JoAnne Normile with Larry Lindner,  contained several errors which were corrected in the electronic editions.  Normile was 43,  not 36,  when she became involved in horse racing.  She was 36 when she got her first horse,  seven years earlier.  The review misattributed to Normile a direct quote which came from another trainer who was trying to talk Normile into using the illegal drug in question.  Normile did not use the drug.  The horse Baby suffered an irreparably broken leg,  as the review mentioned,  but did not “crash” as the term is used in horse racing,  as he did not fall.  The incident allegedly occurred due to a poorly maintained track surface.  Normile is the founder of the national racehorse rescue organization CANTER,  not just a volunteer.  The last 104 pages of the 263-page book focus on how Normile founded and built the organization.  But the horse Scarlett,  mentioned in the review,  was not among Normile’s rescues.  ANIMAL PEOPLE apologizes for the many mistakes.—The Editor


Sacrifice,  rhino horn poaching,  & elephants

Concerning the May/June 2013 ANIMAL PEOPLE editorial feature “Ag-gag laws & changing frameworks of perception,”  the message to be conveyed is that killing––either for food or for religion––is wrong.  Unfortunately, when I talk to Hindus about animal sacrifice,  they ask why the Government of India grants the annual Bakri Id holiday for Muslim animal sacrifices.  And I cannot ask Muslims why because this is politically incorrect. 

In the last few weeks the Blue Cross of India has been capturing overloaded and illegally transported cows, bulls,  buffaloes,  and goats.  We have to fight it out in courts and at police stations,  with butchers and mafia dons surrounding the Blue Cross premises.  People may applaud,  but nobody comes forward to meet the costs of feeding them and the legal costs. It is a lonely and slow battle,  and I believe we can only slow the killing.  I cannot see it stopping.

The African crisis described in your May/June 2013 article “Hunters & ranchers push legal rhino horn traffic as response to poaching” is echoed here in India.  Rhino deaths in Kaziranga National Park have gone up.  When poached rhino horn reaches the market,  there is no difference between Indian and African rhino horn,  just as there there is no difference between Indian and African ivory.  Even a permit issued for only one rhino kill may open an avalanche of rhino horn trafficking.  The rhino horn market has to be closed down,  but will continue as long as East Asian nations turn a blind eye to the ivory trade and the U.S. permits the entry of rhino horn trophies. 

Regarding “Jaipur working elephant death rate soars––but more elephants are on the job,”  India should be ashamed of the way our elephants are treated––both during training and in the way they are used and abused afterward.  Incidentally,  we worship Ganesha,  the elephant-headed God! But your May/June article “Zoo elephant returns to the wild,”  about the South African elephant Thandora, who spent 23 years at the Bloemfontain Zoo,  is wonderful news.  It means that captivity need not be a dead-end for elephants. –Dr. Nanditha Krishna Director The C. P. Ramaswami  Aiyar Foundation Chennai,  India <nankrishna@vsnl.com>

Romanian Constitution recognizes animal welfare

Some months ago the National Federation for Animal Protection started taking steps toward introducing into the Romanian Constitution an article regarding animal protection.  Our proposal was to add that “Since animals are sentient beings who perceive physical and mental suffering,  the State and the citizens have to ensure the right to life of animals, respect for animals and their dignity,  and take the necessary measures to protect them.”

Our amendment was sponsored by a deputy to the Romanian parliament,  and was endorsed by the Constitutional Forum,  which advises the Constitution Review Commission. Opponents of the amendment argued that the phrase “right to life of animals” would require that all slaughterhouses must be closed.  

The amendment was rejected.

We proposed new wording,  stating that “Bad treatment of animals,  defined according to the law,  is forbidden.” This wording has been unanimously accepted.  The Romanian Constitution is the fundamental law of the Romanian state, establishing the general principles of the State,  and the rights and duties of citizens and public authorities.  Romanian animals now have a constitutional right not to be badly treated!

This is a huge step that will help us to protect not only pet animals but also animals in laboratories,  farms,  zoos,  and circuses.

Romania is now among the few countries where there is a constitutional regulation in this regard. ––Carmen Arsene Pitesti,  Romania <cmarsene@yahoo.com>

Elephants Among Us

Elephants Among Us,  by M. Jaynes,  an account of what can and does happen to performing elephants,  is finally in print.  The late Pat Derby and I helped Jaynes to write it for more than three years.  Pat didn’t live to hold the book in her hand,  but was excited that the story of the former Las Vegas performing elephant Stoney,  1973-1995,  was going to be documented.  I saw Pat three weeks before she passed on February 13,  2013.  I showed her a picture of the cover and we discussed the importance of this book. ––Linda Faso Las Vegas,  Nevada

Jaipur elephants

Concerning “Jaipur working elephant death rate soars––but more elephants are on the job,”  in the May/June 2013 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE,  ideally those Jaipur eles should not be kept in a desert environment,  as they are forest animals and they suffer a lot in that hot dusty place,  chained when not being used,  fed a poor diet of sugar cane and chapatti (bread).  It is disappointing to learn the numbers of elephants used in the Jaipur tourist trade are again increasing,  and that microchipping and licencing has not been a success. ––Christine Townend  Working for Animals Sydney,  Australia <christownend@bigpond.com>

Editor’s note:

Townend from 1992 to 2007 headed the Help In Suffering animal hospital and shelter in Jaipur.  An elephant aid program Townend founded in Jaipur operated from 2001 to 2009.  Townend also founded animal hospitals in Kalimpong and Darjeeling,  in the Himalayan foothills.  Townend returned to Australia in 2007.

Cats & birds

Thank you for your March 2013 article “Inflated Stats Panic Birders.”  I love the editorial comment I saw on your web site about not supporting conservation organizations which favor deliberate harm to individual creatures.  

I stopped being a monthly donor to the American Bird Conservancy because of their attacks on neuter/return for feral cats.  I’ve also written an article for our local Audubon newsletter and talked at length with the board about what I see as the sheer insanity of attacking neuter/return,  since doing so will only result in greater cat numbers and more bird deaths. ––Cathy Comstock, Ph.D. Boulder,  Colorado 

Ag-gag laws & fire extinguishers

Thank you for another exceptional editorial,  “Ag-gag laws & changing frameworks of perception,”   in the May/June 2013 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE.  You continue to be a beacon for the animal protection movement.   But I wonder what the percentage of the recent decline in U.S. meat consumption is due to the healthy eating and environmental movements in all their guises,  versus the decline being due to publicity about humane concerns and the horrors of meat production.

Fire extinguishers for dog attacks!  (Recommended at the end of the May/June 2013 article “Colorado requires law enforcement training in dog behavior.”)  Wow,  what a concept!  This sounds like an almost ideal method.  But I wonder what percentage of dog attacks occur where a fire extinguisher is in reach by the victim.  Also,  given the context of your fire extinguisher suggestion,  I guess that you’d like cops in hot pursuit of a suspected felon to carry a fire extinguisher as they run through back yards and climb fences.

Finally,  please be informed that most pocket pepper sprays propel their spray and protect for a radius of ten feet. They too are non-lethal,  and really don’t require much in the way of aiming,  inasumuch as they have about 10-15 seconds of use,  during which time poor aim can be corrected in a fraction of a second.  And pocket pepper sprays can be carried anywhere by almost anyone,  in those states where such are permitted. ––Bruce Max-Feldmann, DVM Berkeley,  California

Editor’s note:

A 2012 survey of U.S. vegetarians and vegans conducted by the Harris Interactive Service Bureau for the Vegetarian Research Group and Vegetarian Times found that 54% cited concern for animals among their primary reasons for giving up meat,  53% cited health reasons,  47% mentioned environmental concerns, and 31% mentioned concerns about food safety.

Every home should have at least one fire extinguisher in the kitchen,  and may need another in the garage and near the fireplace.  Every driver should keep a fire extinguisher within reach of the driver’s seat.  Police cars,  buses,  and taxi cabs already have one.

Of 123 fatal and/or disfiguring dog attacks on children occurring in the U.S. and Canada during the first six months of 2013,  49 (40%) occurred in homes;  47 (38.5%) occurred on public streets.

Of 123 fatal and/or disfiguring dog attacks on adults,  18 occurred in homes (14.6%);  58% occurred on public streets.

Overall, 172 of 246 fatal and/or disfiguring dog attacks (70%) occurred where there should have been a fire extinguisher somewhere nearby.  Only four of these attacks did not involve pit bulls or closely related dogs,  including bull mastiffs and Rottweilers.

ANIMAL PEOPLE identified 21 uses of pepper spray against attacking pit bulls,  of which eight (38.5%) stopped the dogs; 13 did not.  Of seven uses of fire extinguishers,  five stopped the dogs (72%);  two did not.

Wolves & the war on predators

The extensive coverage of the resumptions of wolf hunting around the U.S. in your May/June 2013 edition was disheartening.  As a member of Defenders of Wildlife for several decades,  I am aware of the shenanigans that the cattle and sheep lobbies have been up to,  and how highly vocal they are when it comes to their demands for predator control at any cost.

I have also lived on a large livestock farm.  We had choice Angus steers and cows,  with some Herefords as well,  yet never lost any stock to mammalian predation.  On several occasions I saw two wolves chasing elk,  who had been browsing with our cattle.  The wolves totally ignored the cattle as they pursued the elk,  their intended targets.

The ecological importance of wolves being a keystone species is too often ignored,  but is almost impossible to refute if you believe what your eyes see.  Too many ranchers are still in total denial regarding wolves,  even when shown the proof,  such as the return of lynx,  beavers,  snowshoe hares,  and countless songbirds who proliferated once the aspen and birch regenerated in Yellowstone National Park,  after the return of wolves,  who brought the park’s former overabundance of elk back to historic levels.

Rancher antipathy toward wolves and other predators who help to maintain ecological health is aided and abetted by the continued existence of USDA Wildlife Services.  The name “Animal Services” may sound like a very benign and worthy effort by people whose mission is to improve the lives and safe survival of animals––but “Animal Services” was introduced in 1995 to improve the image of “Animal Damage Control,”  the original name of this agency,  formed in 1931 as a gift to ranchers from Congress.  

The ADC/Animal Services mission has always focused on killing livestock predators,  including wolves,  pumas,  bears, coyotes,  bobcats,  and lynx.

As a former livestock veterinarian,  I locked horns with ADC when they visited my office unannounced and demand that I sign a document certifying that the livestock I had necropsied were killed as a result of wolf predation.  Wolves in those days were extinct in that part of Texas (and still are) and the livestock I necropsied did not even have a tooth mark on them.  

I had sent blood and tissue samples to the pathology laboratory at College Station,  which identified the clostridal bacteria these cattle died of,  and was about to take the pathology reports to the ranchers whose livestock I had necropsied,  when the ADC interrupted me,  told me to scrap my lab reports,  and told me to sign their fraudulent paper stating that the cattle were victims of wolf predation.  

I refused,  and ordered them off my premises,  but they and their henchmen made repeat visits before I arranged to have some police,  who were clients,  warn them off.

Animal Services is financed by taxpayer monies,  and still has the same heinous agenda,  littering the countryside with leghold traps,  wire snares,  and poisons otherwise banned by the Environmental Protection Agency. ––Marvin J. Sheffield,  DVM Wild Canid Research Group 651 Sinex Avenue Pacific Grove,  CA  93950

Differential licensing in Fort Pierce 

An editor’s note in the April 2013 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE mentioned that “Encouraging sterilization via charging higher license fees for unaltered dogs helped considerably to introduce dog sterilization as the U.S. societal norm,”  but “has not visibly helped much in the 20-odd years since the rate of dog sterilization rose to three or four times the rate of dog licensing.”

Fort Pierce,  the county seat of St. Lucie County,  Florida,  has reduced dog impounds by 50% since the 2009 passage of a $75 differential registration requirement.  The ordinance also established a spay/neuter assistance program.  Providing low-cost or free sterilization and transportation for the most financially challenged is a critical component of effective differential licensing.

The City of Fort Pierce and a local charity,  United for Animals,  formed a program known as Happy Hounds that provides the spay/neuter services and transportation to and from the local participating veterinarians.  The Happy Hounds program also includes canvassing,  seeking out pet-keeping citizens in need of assistance.  

The differential registration component has been an absolute must in this program’s success.  When all else fails, informing pet keepers of the high differential registration they are required to pay for an unsterilized pet has motivated reluctant keepers to spay/neuter.  In some cases,  for those who just haven’t “gotten around to doing it,”  this is the push they needed. ––Susan M. Parry United for Animals P.O. Box 3307 Ft. Pierce,  FL 34948 <www.unitedforanimals.org>

Editor’s note:

Whatever the numbers are in Fort Pierce,  the results for St. Lucie County as a whole show a more ambiguous picture.

“For the calendar year 2008-2009 the Humane Society of St. Lucie County took in a combined total 7,167 dogs and cats from St. Lucie County,”  of whom 4,954 were killed,  “a 3% decrease from the previous year,”  according to the HSSLC web site.  HSSLC is the only large open-admission shelter serving the county.   

No newer numbers have been posted by HSSLC itself,  but Lisa Bolivar of the Fort Pierce Tribune reported in June 2012 that HSSLC “sees almost 9,000 animals annually,”  which would represent an increase in intake of about 20%.    The number of animals killed declined to 4,400 in 2011,  executive director Frank Andrews told Jon Shainman of WPTV,  meaning that the St. Lucie County rate of shelter killing improved from 18.6 per 1,000 human residents to 15.5,  but it was still far above the U.S. national and South Atlantic regional averages (9.5 and 11.1),  and was not improving faster than either the U.S. or South Atlantic regions as a whole.

How are retrievers trained to assist hunters?

The Irish Council Against Blood Sports has called for a garda (police) investigation into video footage showing a gun dog breeder and trainer wrapping elastic around a live pigeon’s legs and then throwing the bird in the air.  The dog is sent to retrieve the pigeon.  The same pigeon is used on several occasions.  

In another part of the video,  the trainer is seen kicking a bird to make it fly.  According to his web site,  this trainer is a field trial judge for the Irish and English Kennel Clubs,  and gives courses at home and abroad on his dog training methods.

We have to question whether this is a common training method for gun dogs in this country.  We call on the Irish and English Kennel clubs to make a statement on this.

Deputy Clare Daly recently asked agriculture minister Simon Coveney “if he will ensure that action is taken against a person in County Leitrim [this trainer] for outrageous cruelty to animals…ensuring that all animals are taken from him and that he is prevented from posing as a trainer or trial judge with the Irish Kennel Club or any other animal organisations.”  

Coveney stated in response: “I have referred this matter for investigation to An Garda Siochana.” ––Aideen Yourell Irish Council  Against Blood Sports PO Box 88,  Mullingar,   County Westmeath,  Ireland <aideen@banbloodsports.com> <www.banbloodsports.com>

Animal Liberation & Animals Australia

The obituary “Animal philanthropist Jeanne Marchig dies,”  in the May/June 2013 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE, mentioned that  the Marchig Trust had in 1997 honored “Christine Townend,  cofounder of Animal Liberation (now Animals Australia).”  

The institutional history is actually much more complicated.  Townend and Peter Singer,  author of the book Animal Liberation,  cofounded the organization Animal Liberation in 1976.  In 1980 Townend and Singer spun off the Australian Federation of Animal Societies,  which in 1986 became the Australian & New Zealand Federation of Animal Societies. ANZFAS became Animals Australia in 1998.  

Five other autonomous organizations continue to use the name Animal Liberation:  Animal Liberation Victoria,  Animal Liberation New South Wales,  Animal Liberation Queensland,  Animal Liberation Australian Capital Territory,  and Animal Liberation South Australia.

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