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"Speak Up for Animals and Humans" April 18 2014, 0 Comments

        No doubt fervent animal lovers need little additional motivation to work to stop and, when possible, prevent animal cruelty. For some of us, the thought of animals tortured at the hands of humans is literally gut wrenching. However, even if you don’t find yourself driven to fiercely protect animals, day in, day out, on moral or empathetic grounds, there is at least one compelling reason for you to care about animal cruelty: A LOT of science seems to suggest there is a very close association between animal abuse and violence towards humans.

        April 17-23, 2014 is “Animal Cruelty/Human Violence Awareness Week.” The brainchild of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), this campaign started back in the 1990’s and is meant to raise awareness and encourage people to act. Since that time, more and more research has provided evidence that violence towards animals is often a precursor to (or indicator of) violence towards humans. In fact, the statistics are staggering. A three-year-long study by the Chicago Police Department in the early 2000s found that 65% of people arrested for animal crimes had also been arrested for battery of another person. Another study found that animal abuse had been documented in 88% of families under supervision for physical abuse of children. Somewhere between 73%-81% of women entering domestic abuse shelters report their partners had also abused or killed family pets. And, according to a 2013 article in Psychology Today by Dr. Gail Melson, “When counselors at several federal penitentiaries evaluated inmates for levels of aggression, 70% of the most violent prisoners had serious and repeated animal abuse in their childhood histories, as compared to 6% of nonaggressive prisoners in the same facilities.”

        While some in the scientific community caution against reading statistics such as the ones stated above as proof of correlation between harming animals and harming humans, there is little debate amongst law enforcement and legislators. According to the HSUS, at least 13 states have laws allowing pets to be included in protection orders such as temporary restraining orders, and at least 28 states include psychological counseling provisions in their laws regarding people arrested for animal cruelty. Some municipalities, such as San Diego, California, are now also requiring social workers who develop suspicions of animal abuse in the families they are evaluating to report those suspicions to animal control agencies for further investigation.

        Animal cruelty in and of itself is beyond bad enough; its close association with violence toward humans should put it on the radar screen for each and every one of us. What can you do? First, be vigilant and vow to report animal abuse as soon as you suspect it. The quicker you respond, the more likely you are to help prevent further acts of aggression. Also, as a society, we must all lose the “boys will be boys” attitude when it comes to children being mean to, or hurting animals.  Child development experts are in agreement on this fact: animal cruelty is NOT a “normal” part of children’s -- even boys' -- growth. Pranks that involve harming family pets or other animals aren’t pranks – they are crimes, and often accompany other types of aggression. Take steps to report, and otherwise stop, such behavior immediately – you may be disrupting a larger cycle of violence without even knowing it. Supporting legislation that cracks down on animal cruelty is also important; be aware and informed about steps your community is taking or needs to be taking to protect animals. Remember, your efforts to save an animal may ultimately also save a human from pain, abuse or worse.

        For more information on this important issue, please visit the HSUS's page on Animal Cruelty and Human Violence.

        ~ KS


"What You've Heard, it's All True" April 15 2014, 0 Comments

       

 

      You may have heard that elephants have incredible memories, sometimes remembering routes to distant water sources during times of drought that they haven’t used in over in over two decades. Or maybe you’ve heard that elephants can grow to be 13 feet at the shoulder, weigh over six tons, and live up to 80 years in the wild. Or maybe you’ve heard that during birth, the other female members of a heard will gather around the birthing mother, trumpeting and hopping excitedly, as if dancing in celebration as the newborn enters the world. All of this is true. Know what else is true about these amazing creatures? In the hour that many of you will take for lunch today, three more will be illegally killed for the ivory in their tusks.

        According to Defenders of Wildlife, World Wildlife Fund and other reputable sources, it is believed that 3-5 million African elephants once roamed the African plains (& deserts). However, primarily due to habitat loss and a resurgence in the popularity of ivory, only about 500,000-600,000 remain. Asian elephant populations have also plummeted, from roughly 100,000 in 1900 to somewhere between 35,000-40,000 in the wild today.  Threats to the space and vegetation they need to survive have plagued elephants on both continents as human development has historically taken precedence over the needs of wildlife. While conversations regarding “managing resources” and “conservation” have increased in areas where humans are encroaching upon elephant territory quite a bit, so, unfortunately has the demand for ivory – especially in Africa. Despite an extensive (but not exhaustive) international ban on the sale of ivory that dates back to 1989, ivory has remained highly sought after around the globe, and especially in China. And while taking down an elephant can be difficult and dangerous, the reward for poachers is significant: a single, adult African elephant tusk is worth $2,000-$3,000 (U.S.) in today’s highly unregulated ivory market.

        Why is ivory coveted so much that people are willing to drive the animal that produces it into extinction just so they can own some? There are several reasons, none of which justify the slaughter. As trade routes were being forged across Africa and Asia by colonial powers, ivory was often presented to kings, emperors and other leaders as a treasured gift, being that the hunter had presumably risked his life to get it. It was seen as rare and exotic, and hundreds upon hundreds of years later, ivory is still associated with the “wealth of kings,” and therefore is sought after as a status symbol. It’s used in sacred religious objects in some cultures and is understood to symbolize great honor when given as a gift in others. Ivory carvings and jewelry are prized for their artistry, with some from certain cultures viewed as authentic emblems of what is known as “native” or “primitive” art, and ivory that has been ground down to a powder form is believed by many who practice Chinese medicine to have healing properties. Though the hunting of elephants is now illegal across much of their remaining ranges, the demand for ivory fuels an unbearably high rate of poaching: an estimated 33,000 – 40,000 elephants worldwide are poached annually, meaning 3-4 elephants per hour, per day, EVERY DAY, die in the pursuit of ivory. Consequently, according to a recent report in The Independent (UK), unless a drastic decrease in the demand occurs, and/or significant gains are made in the war on poaching, elephants will be extinct in the wild within 10 years.

        There is some cause for hope: more countries are beginning to clamp down on the importation and sale of illegally harvested ivory. Countries where poaching is prevalent, such as Kenya and Tanzania, are developing economic alternatives for peoples that have traditionally hunted elephants for income. And technological advancements are assisting in improving and intensifying anti-poaching efforts: Kenya, for example will soon employ drones to search for poachers and for vulnerable herds that need protection. However, like many things, technology giveth (optimism) and taketh away: poachers are now armed with GPS tracking equipment and night vision goggles to help them hunt under the stealth of darkness, and the internet makes a global marketplace for ivory possible. Humane Society International reported just last month that Chinese online retailer Rakuten has over 28,000 ads for ivory products on its network of websites alone.

        Elephants are amazing, majestic, unique creatures, and if you’re like us here at Rescued Cards, you don’t want to live in a world without them. Please join the fight to protect elephant habitat and to end the illegal and inhumane practice of poaching. Start by vowing NEVER TO BUY IVORY FROM ANY SOURCE! (An older family heirloom may be legal to trade in, but many ivory pieces that are less than 100 years old are actually illegal to sell or import in the U.S.). What all you’ve heard about the how dire the situation is for elephants… it’s all true. Please visit Save the Elephants and Defenders of Wildlife to learn what more you can do to help.

        ~ KS


"If Ever You Wanted to Foster an Animal..." April 11 2014, 0 Comments

      

     Spring has sprung! And that means new life is everywhere… including in your local animal rescues and shelters. Each spring, animal welfare organizations are bombarded with babies of all kinds, but especially puppies and kittens. The sheer volume of new pets to care for, plus the additional needs babies generally have, often become overwhelming – and if the shelter is not a “no-kill” facility, euthanasia is a primary method of population control. If you’ve ever considered providing a temporary home for animals until they are adopted, here is why your volunteerism is desperately needed right now:

1)      “Kitten season” is beginning. Unlike dogs and rabbits, for instance, cats are seasonally polyestrous, which means they go into heat only during certain parts of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere, this results in pregnancies that come to term from early spring to late fall, with a typical “boom” in April and May. While this is good news for some families looking to do a springtime adoption of a kitten, it is HORRIBLE NEWS for shelters, rescues and most of all, the cats themselves. According to a NBC4 News (Los Angeles) report, 28,124 unweaned (extremely young) kittens were euthanized by Los Angeles Animal Services from January 2009 through January 2014 due largely to having not enough time or space – and not having enough foster homes. Unfortunately, you did just read that number correctly: over 28,000 kittens killed. In that same time span, LA Animal Services shelters adopted out just 3,953 kittens.

2)        Puppy season is… always. Dogs can go into heat at any time, once a year, but many shelters and rescues report an uptick in the number of puppies they see in the springtime. In part, that’s due to “backyard breeders” timing when their dogs are going to have puppies, thinking they’ll time the birth with the warming spring months, when lots of families start looking for puppies. Unfortunately, many of those litters end up in shelters as these “breeders” figure out they bit off more than they can chew. Also, unaltered dogs start spending more time outside – not always constrained – as the weather warms. Since the average gestation period is 63 days, as these dogs encounter other unaltered dogs in March and April, their unplanned litters start hitting animal welfare organizations in May and June. According to statistics cited by the ASPCA, 60% of dogs that enter U.S. shelters are euthanized.

3)        Understand “Foster Math.” If you foster a litter of puppies or kittens and/or their mother, you will be saving many more lives than the 6 or 7 lives in your home. First, you’ll be creating space at the shelter or rescue for other animals that may have gotten no chance at all if the litter you’re caring for were at the facility. Second, fostered animals often “show” much better to potential adopters, because they’ve been better socialized (due to the foster family’s consistent care and attention), have gotten at least a little bit of training and they don’t have “kennel stress.” The better an animal shows, the quicker it gets adopted – which means the quicker the shelter or organization can move on to rescue another life. Also, baby animals have immune systems that are still forming. When they are in homes, as opposed to a shelter environment, they are much less likely to require extra medical care. Accordingly, this frees up resources to care for adult animals that may come in to the facility ill, or that pick up an illness while at the shelter. Thanks to “foster math,” just a few weeks or a couple months of fostering on your part could result in saving a dozen or more lives.

        Even if you want to help, but think taking on the responsibilities of caring for a litter might be too much, this is still a great time of year to contact a shelter or rescue to offer to take on a single pet. Remember, thanks in large part to kitten and puppy booms, resources (especially space) are at a premium at these facilities. And again, foster math kicks in: at minimum you’ll be saving the animal you bring home to foster and at least one more – the one you made space for at the facility when you made space for one in your home.

         If ever you thought about becoming a foster NOW is the time! Please contact your local shelter or rescue to learn how you can help.

        ~ KS


Spring Holidays Can Be Animal-Friendly April 08 2014, 0 Comments

    

     April is the month when spring really shifts into gear, and for many of us, that includes spring holidays such as Easter and Passover. Though meat and other animal products have traditionally been mainstays of these holidays, there are ways to meld plant-based food options and animal-friendly practices with religious and cultural observances. Whether you are vegetarian, vegan or just looking for ways to lessen your impact on the planet while still enjoying your holidays, below are a few suggestions for making your springtime fun, festive and animal-friendly:

        1) Decorating/Hiding eggs. Instead of using actual hard-boiled chicken eggs, you have several options. One of the most popular involves decorating wooden eggs, which can be found online as well as at many crafts stores. Decorating wooden eggs with ornate designs draws upon a Ukrainian Easter tradition called “Pysanky” that dates back hundreds of years. Some families build their collection of eggs over the years, and some use each egg to symbolize events of the preceding year, so that as the years go buy, the collected eggs begin to tell the family’s stories. Other options include plastic eggs (which can be decorated with stickers or non-toxic paint)) that are filled with candy or other “prizes” and hidden around the household, Styrofoam eggs and eggs made of paper or papier mâché. Again, most of these items can be found at your neighborhood craft store, and those that can’t, are for sale online.

        2) Candy & Easter Basket Items. Many delicious vegan chocolates and candies are available for those with a sweet tooth. Chocolate Decadence and Allison's Gourmet both offer rave-worthy organic, vegan chocolate bunnies. The Natural Candy Store carries a variety of candies, including chocolates, lollipops, peanut-butter cups, gummy worms and more, that are all sans animal products. (Keep in mind that many different kinds of jellybeans (an Easter staple) are vegetarian, but are not vegan, due to containing gelatin and/or confectioner’s glaze, so if you are looking specifically for beans with no animal products of any kind, make sure you read the label). As for other basket items, don’t forget fruits and nuts as additions to, or alternatives to, candy. And using shredded newspaper or wrapping paper is easier on the environment than the pre-packaged plastic “grass” often used to line the bottom of the basket.

        3) Meals. Where to begin? Depending on where you live, spring may well mark the beginning of farmer’s market season for you, meaning many fresh, healthy options are at hand, both at these markets and at your local grocery. For a new, animal-friendly twist on your family’s Easter brunch tradition, check out these suggestions from Peta or these recipes from Healthy. Happy. Life. Many sumptuous Easter dinner recipes can be found online including these two personal favorites, both courtesy of The Veg Kitchen: these Orzo-Stuffed Bell Peppers are hearty and flavorful, while the Crustless Tofu Quiche with Mushrooms and Herbs is easy to prepare and a little lighter than traditional egg-and-cheese quiches. The Veg Kitchen also offers several plant based Passover recipes.

        4). Lastly, Giving Pets as Gifts. Every year around the spring holidays, thousands of children receive a bunny, a chick, a puppy or a kitten as a gift. In some ways it makes sense: spring is often seen as synonymous with youth, and bringing two young lives (a child and a baby pet) together seems as natural as the season’s blooming flowers. But often, live animals – especially young ones – make terrible gifts for kids. Why? Well, for one reason, animals aren’t like other gifts: they need constant care and if the child loses interest in a month or two, you can’t stick the pet in a closet like other toys and forget about it. Also, remember that the cute little chick will become a full grown chicken; the clumsy and playful kitten is on its way to becoming a much larger and probably much more independent cat.  And that bunny? Well, remember it will not only grow, but unless it is spayed or neutered, it will also be capable of reproducing. Rapidly. Every year, a few months after the spring holidays, rescues and shelters get flooded with Easter/Passover “gifts” that didn’t work out. So, if you’re determined to include a new pet as part of your celebration this year, please don’t try to surprise anyone: take your whole family to meet the prospective new addition prior to adoption and have everyone agree on the shared responsibility. That’s one of the best ways to be animal-friendly this holiday season and beyond.

        Passover begins Monday, April 14th and Easter is Sunday, April 20th – for those of you who celebrate, have a happy, cruelty-free holiday!

        ~ KS


"30 Days and Counting!" April 04 2014, 0 Comments

       

     The official countdown is on! The Million Pibble March commences one month from now, on May 3, in Washington, D.C. We’ve mentioned the march a few times before in this blog, but if you’re unfamiliar with it, the Million Pibble March is the brainchild of actress/comedian Rebecca Corry. Corry has been a fervent advocate for pit bulls ever since adopting Angel, the formerly-abused blue “pibble” she at first agreed to foster, then later fell in love with and made part of her family. Her growing awareness of the biases against, and mistreatment of pibbles led to Corry starting Stand Up for Pits, a non-profit organization that advocates against breed specific legislation (BSL), raises money for pit bull causes and rescues, and aims to educate the public about pit bulls and the challenges they face. The Million Pibble March on Washington is Corry’s next step: she hopes that by rallying pibble and animal lovers on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capital, her call for ending BSL and creating safe communities for humans and pets alike will enter the national consciousness and catalyze change.

       

      Being that our very own mascot here at Rescued Cards is the immensely loveable and photogenic pibble, Trinity, this is a cause near and dear to us – we’re big supporters of Stand Up for Pits and The Million Pibble March. And that’s why we’re again encouraging everyone who sees this blog to support the march. With just one month remaining before the big day, the fundraising goal of $40,000 to offset the costs of staging the event has not yet been met. As of this writing, just over $25,000 has been donated, which is an amazing start, but maybe if we all give a few dollars and spread the word encouraging others to do the same, we can hit the goal. There are several options – a flat donation, or you can purchase a Million Pibble March t-shirt or or hoodie, with all after-cost proceeds going directly to the march. To learn more about donating to, or attending, the Million Pibble March on Washington, click here or check out the event’s Facebook page.

        Though 2014 has seen a slight shift toward (slightly) more positive media coverage of pit bulls, they still need those of us who haven’t given in to the undeserved bad press about these generally loving dogs to advocate on their behalf. For every city or state that is reconsidering the merits of BSL banning pit bulls (like the state of Washington currently is, for instance), there is at least one city that is pondering adopting this largely ineffectual and unfair type of legislation, or is voting to keep their current BSL on the books (as Aurora, Colorado recently did). The media still gravitate toward stories of dog bites or attacks involving what are perceived to be pit bulls (though misidentification is common), fueling the public’s fears. Because these incidents are often described as gruesome and completely, spontaneously, random and unprovoked (a contention many many dog experts and behaviorists challenge), pit bulls have come to be seen as ticking time bombs, waiting to “snap.” Unfortunately for pibbles, our sound-bite society is great at turning a sensational headline viral, and not so great at telling the whole story. Like how pit bulls generally score extremely high on temperament tests, do very well as therapy dogs, and are roughly 150 times less likely to cause a fatality than is crawling out of bed in the morning. When it comes to pit bulls, A LOT of context is edited out of conversations and news reports. See why events like the Million Pibble March are so desperately needed?

        30 days and counting. You can still make a difference!! Please visit the above links to learn more about the march and/or to donate. To learn more about Angel, the resilient blue pibble who inspired the creation of Rebecca Corry’s Stand Up For Pits Foundation, please click here. Let’s work together to make our communities safer for all of us, including the Angels of the world.

        ~ KS


"Striking While the Iron's Hot" April 02 2014, 0 Comments

        March, as it turned out, was a whale of a month…. and quite a month for whales. First, the whale count off the California coast during the annual grey whale migration was higher than it had been in several years. While environmentalists warn against assuming this means the grey whale population is growing, it is seen as a positive sign that the greys are finding coastal waters safe and inviting once again. Second, Santa Monica, California Assemblyman Richard Bloom introduced the Orca Welfare and Safety Act, which would prevent SeaWorld and other venues statewide from keeping orcas for the purpose of performance or entertainment. And then Monday, on the final day of March, came the coup de grâce: the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands, ordered Japan to stop whaling in the Antarctic. Finally, it seems, the world is stepping up on behalf or whales.

        The ICJ’s ruling is especially compelling, both because of its immediate mandate and because of who ultimately brought it about. Despite the International Whaling Commission’s 1986 ban on commercial whaling, Japanese fleets have continued to hunt in the Antarctic. The Japanese government had backed this practice, arguing that the whales hunted were being used for scientific research. However, environmental agencies for years had contested the veracity of Japan’s claim, and the International Whaling Commission issued several condemnatory resolutions against Japan’s whaling in the Antarctic. Greenpeace and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society even took to the waters, attempting to disrupt the whale hunts. While momentum built, Japan’s insistence on hunting whales – especially Minke whales – remained intact. However, in 2010, the government of Australia, with an assist from New Zealand, took Japan to international court, disputing Japanese claims of whaling in the name of science and citing the extensive commercial sale of whale meat in Japan. Australia took this unprecedented step despite being a huge trade partner of Japan. And finally, Monday, the ICJ agreed and declared no further whaling permits will be extended to Japan to hunt in Antarctic waters, effective immediately.

        While this is cause for celebration, it is definitely NOT cause for relaxation. Whales need us to be proactive just as much now as they ever have, and on at least two fronts, there is immediate action all of us can take:

1) If you follow this blog and/or visit the Rescued Cards Facebook page, you know we’ve been all over the Orca Welfare and Safety Act. We’re big proponents of this measure, and consequently, we are once again asking people to get involved. On April 8th, the California Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee will consider the merits of Assemblyman Richard Bloom’s Orca Welfare and Safety Act (AB 2140). If you believe, like we do, that it is way past time we stop exploiting orcas for entertainment purposes, PLEASE CONTACT THE MEMBERS OF THE WATER, PARKS AND WILDLIFE COMMITTEE BEFORE APRIL 8TH!! Call, write, email, or if you are a resident of California, contact committee members AND your local representatives. This act represents a chance to prevent animal exploitation and abuse – killer whales have no business being in captivity, and here’s our chance to put an end to it, at least in California. The more noise the better, so please, take one minute and at least send a quick email in support of orcas!!

2) The ICJ’s decision to shut down Japan’s Antarctic whaling operations is a step in the right direction, but it is just one step. Several countries – Iceland, Norway and Japan among them – still participate in commercial whaling, despite the 1986 international ban. Unfortunately, it is often endangered species such as the fin whale that are the targets of these hunts. NOW is the time, while the recent ICJ decision is still fresh, to call for an end to commercial whaling worldwide. There are two quick ways to help: one is by emailing Mr. Ryan Wulff (ryan.wulff@noaa.gov), the U.S. Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission and asking him to keep the pressure up at this year’s IWC meetings. The other is to contact Tony Abbott, the Prime Minister of Australia, and thank him for his country’s stance against Japanese whaling in the Antarctic in international court. The more support Australia (and New Zealand, who joined that suit) gets from the international community, the more likely its government is to stand up for whales in the future.

 

        Please get active! We’ve got to strike while the pro-whale iron is hot!

        ~ KS


"A Changing Tide?" March 27 2014, 0 Comments

        The date was January 19, 2013, and the epicenter was nestled in the Rocky Mountains of Utah. At the time, it seemed like a minor tremor… one that all but perhaps a handful of people missed altogether. But thanks to the current media climate, the little tremor that was the Sundance Film Festival premiere of the documentary, Blackfish, has grown into a catalyst of seismic proportions. Now, a mere 14 months later, the reverberations are still being felt.

        Blackfish documents the plight of Tilikum, and by extension, the plights of other orcas (aka “killer whales”) in captivity around the world. Tilikum is a large male orca currently in captivity at SeaWorld Orlando, Florida. He was captured in 1983 off the east coast of Iceland, and has been used to sire other orcas (21 calves so far) and in marine mammal shows at amusement parks. However, Tilikum is best known for the trouble that follows him: to date, Tilikum has been involved with the deaths of three humans, two of those incidents occurring at SeaWorld Orlando. Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite uses the most recent death, the violent 2010 drowning of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, as a launching point for addressing several issues around keeping orcas in captivity. The film is considered controversial – SeaWorld disputes much of what is contained in the 83 minutes of footage. However, it also has clearly struck a chord: once CNN got involved and broadcast the documentary in October, questions about the morality of orca captivity abounded – and so far, at least two major changes have resulted:

        First, not long after that October broadcast, news came that Russia had plans to bring two wild-caught orcas to Sochi to display as a tourist attraction during the 2014 Winter Olympics. Riding the wave of concern Blackfish had introduced, the international outrage over this announcement was swift and vehement. Multiple animal rights organizations protested and thousands of individuals signed online petitions requesting that Russian and Olympic officials reconsider their plans. (Rescued cards joined these efforts, writing about the issue in our December 6, 2013 blog post.) The result was a mixed blessing: though initially misreported at the beginning of the Olympics, it has been confirmed that the two orcas slated for display in Sochi weren’t displayed after all. (Neither was the endangered black sea dolphin that Olympic organizers had planned on including in the opening ceremonies.) That’s the good news. The bad news is, according to the most recent reports available, they have not been, and will not be, returned to the wild. They are currently being held in Moscow, awaiting assignment to an amusement park, probably in either China or Russia.

        Second, in the U.S. at least, politicians have joined the ranks of those troubled by the issues raised in Blackfish. In February, New York State Senator Greg Ball introduced legislation to ban the harboring of orcas in aquariums and sea parks. And earlier this month, California Assemblyman Richard Bloom introduced the “Orca Welfare and Safety Act” that would ban SeaWorld and other venues from using killer whales in shows. It also seeks to ban importing or exporting orcas, as well as breeding them in captivity. The legislation is controversial and SeaWorld would never let go of its signature Shamu shows without a fight. But… a conversation has been started and the tide may be beginning to change: a poll published on March 6 by the San Diego Union-Tribune found that 66% of those surveyed supported “a bill that would ban orca shows at SeaWorld.”

        Whether Blackfish got all of its facts right or, as SeaWorld claims, is way off base, there is at least one lesson from the film that cannot be ignored: media matter because awareness matters. Thanks to the TV broadcast of Blackfish and subsequent online and social media coverage, the ethical considerations of using killer whales for entertainment – and all that entails – has gone from being basically invisible to being part of a worldwide discussion on animal rights. Even the entertainment industry is questioning the use of orcas for entertainment: several major music acts (Willie Nelson, Trisha Yearwood, Heart, the Barenaked Ladies and others) have cancelled appearances at SeaWorld since Blackfish’s premiere on CNN. We hope you, too, will stay aware and informed on this issue, as the clamor is, if nothing else, letting SeaWorld and other marine parks know that we’re watching. And that we care.

        For more information on the proposed “Orca Welfare and Safety Act,” read the act itself here. To have your voice heard on the issue, email Santa Monica, California Assemblyman Richard Bloom.

        ~ KS


"The SOS of the West" March 25 2014, 0 Comments

        The past few months have brought the United States what many of us would describe as “crazy” weather: polar vortexes deep-freezing the east coast, measurable snowfall (twice!) in Atlanta, Georgia, residual ice causing a 100-vehicle crash in Pennsylvania, 35 degrees-below-zero wind chills in Denver, Colorado, and more recently, tragic flooding and mudslides in the Pacific Northwest. Based on all the problems due to precipitation, it might be a little difficult to believe that much of the U.S. is steeped in a severe drought. But don’t let the recent headlines fool you: the drought is not only very real, it is also having a devastating impact, especially in the West.

        According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Drought Monitor, 14 states have areas that are experiencing drought conditions that are defined as “severe” or worse, with five (California, Nevada, Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado) having regions enduring “exceptional” droughts – the most grave designation on the USDA’s drought scale. The situation in California alone has reached historically bad proportions: this past January was the first in recorded history in which less than a quarter inch of rain fell in San Francisco. And in Los Angeles during the same month, no measurable rain fell for just the fifth time since 1878. Statewide, from north to south, 11 California counties are experiencing exceptional drought conditions, while an overwhelming 67% of the state ended January suffering through “extreme drought,” the second worst drought category. With California usually producing – by far – more agricultural products than any other state, and crops currently in critical jeopardy, it is no wonder that on March 1st, California Governor Jerry Brown signed a $687 million drought relief package into law.

        However, all the legislation in the world won’t be enough to help humans, animals or crops in the western U.S., if the rains continue to stay away. What can help is for all of us to pitch in and conserve water. Below, you will find some tips on minimizing your water usage:

1) Take quicker showers. Cutting your shower time from 10 minutes to five can save up to 12.5 gallons of water. (Also, taking a shower generally requires much less water than taking a bath does.)

2) Turn off the faucet when brushing your teeth or shaving. Doing so could save up to 10 gallons over the course of a day.

3) Wash smart. Using your washing machine or your dishwasher only when they contain full loads will conserve water.

4) Installing aerators on kitchen and bathroom faucets will reduce flow, and can save multiple gallons of water per day.

5) Low-flow shower heads save 2.5 gallons per person, per day compared to regular-flow shower heads. And consider installing dual-option or high-efficiency toilets. You could save up to 19 gallons per person, per day.

6) Soak pots and pans instead of scraping them under running water. Same goes for fruits and vegetables – wash them in a pan of water, then reuse that water to take care of your houseplants.

7) You can also conserve water on the outside of your household: using your sprinklers for 3-5 fewer minutes per usage could save between two and five gallons.

        These are just a few suggestions for somewhat simple ways to conserve water. It’s easy, in much of the U.S., to take for granted that when you turn on a faucet, a stream of fairly clean water will come out. However, we really can’t afford to make that assumption now; supplies are literally running out. In February, for instance, the California State Water Project (SWP) announced it didn’t have enough water in its system of reservoirs, aqueducts, power plants and pumping plants that supplies water to about 25 million Californians. For the first time ever, water delivery from SWP has been shut down; estimates as of February were that at least 17 rural areas were in danger of running out of water by summer. Lack of water in the bone dry West is no longer a theoretical problem of the future – it’s upon us. Consequently, it is also upon us to do our part to conserve one of our most precious resources.

        For more tips on how to reduce your water usage, please visit Water Use it Wisely.

        ~ KS


"The Great Grey Migration" March 20 2014, 0 Comments

        Springtime in North America often means an explosion of vivid colors: lush green grasses and trees, bright yellow and purple flowers, even glowing orange sunsets seem to become more plentiful than they were in the winter. However, this is also a great time to take in a more muted tone – namely, grey, as in the massive and magnificent grey whale. Each January through the end of March, and then again briefly in late April through early May, thousands of these behemoths embark on their annual migration north, from the warm and shallow bays of Baja, California, Mexico to the cold and nutrient-rich waters of the Bering Sea. And fortunately for those of us who crave to see whales in their natural environment, the migratory path for grey whales is generally pretty close to shore. Even better for us: 2014 is sizing up to be one of the best years on record for seeing grey whales in coastal waters.

        It's a mixed bag when considering grey whales through the lens of conservation. Hunted to the brink of extinction in the mid 19th century, and again targeted in the early 20th century when floating whaling factories were introduced, grey whales disappeared completely from the north Atlantic, and the western Pacific/Korean population remains largely decimated (scientists fear fewer than 130 exist in the wild). However, thanks to the International Whaling Commission granting full protection in 1947, and the grey whale becoming one of the first animals protected in the U.S. under the Endangered Species Act in 1973, the eastern north Pacific population has rebounded nicely. Estimates range between 19,000-23,000 whales in the eastern north Pacific population – numbers that have led U.S. officials to remove the grey whale from the Endangered & Threatened Species list back in 1994, and to keep it off.

            These relatively robust numbers have helped the grey whale become an icon of springtime along the western coast of North America. They migrate to the warm, coastal waters of Baja, California in order to breed and to birth calves. Adults start heading back north as early as late February; mothers with calves follow in late spring. Thanks to their relatively gentle orientations toward humans and their general tolerance of boats, whale watching tours have become big business during these migrations. You have probably seen some of the dramatic up-close photos of whales breaching the surface or huge tails fins descending into the depths. Before signing up for these tours, please keep in mind a couple of considerations: first, studies have shown that even though most grey whales don’t look stressed out from being followed by tour boats, that doesn’t mean they aren’t. Scientists have identified some stress behaviors & physiological reactions in whales following encounters with boats. Current studies are attempting to discern if any of these impacts are long-term. In addition, one of the major threats that remain for grey whales now that most whaling has been curtailed is the pollution of their environment. More boats results in more noise pollution, more oil and other chemical residues in the water, and more plastic and other types of waste being tossed by whale watchers into the ocean. According to several scientific and wildlife advocacy organizations, grey whales have shown significant sensitivity to oil seepage, as well as to the noises produced by ships and smaller boats. To learn about whale watching tour operators that try to minimize negative impacts on whales, please reference the American Cetacean Society. Or, skip the boat altogether: The Marine Mammal Center will help you identify great spots to view grey whales from shore.

 

        Spring so often offers some of the most beautiful sights of the year and the migration of Pacific grey whales – a journey that averages over 10,000 miles round-trip and is longer than that by any other mammal on earth – is no exception. Since this past December, sightings by official counters along the Southern California coast have been more plentiful than they have been in several years. The whales are back, but let's remember that's to be celebrated and not taken for granted. Let's make sure we do all we can to keep our coastal waters inviting.

        ~ KS


"An Ounce of Prevention..." March 19 2014, 0 Comments

    

        Quiz time! What do Lilies, batteries, laundry detergent, mulch, grapes, tobacco, unbaked bread dough, Tylenol, toothpaste and macadamia nuts all have in common? Give up? The answer is, they are all common household items that are potentially poisonous for your pet. They also are just the type of items you’re likely not to give a second thought, but your pet may be tempted to taste test while you are away. The famous saying may be, “Ignorance is bliss,” but when it comes to potential hazards to your pet, what you don’t know may prove disastrous. Recognizing this, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), has designated this week (March 16-22) “National Animal Poison Prevention Week.” Its aim is to educate people about the potential dangers that many everyday items can pose for pets. When it comes to keeping your animals safe from toxic substances, here are a few things to keep in mind:

1) The above list of potential poisons is only a partial list! There are many, MANY other items that you may have in your home right now, within reach of your pets even, that pose a threat. Some – like chocolate and antifreeze – are fairly well known pet hazards. Others, like onions, beer, potpourri and fabric softener sheets might surprise you. While it is difficult to keep track of every potential hazard, this Humane Society of the United States list names some of the most common, and this one from the Pet Poison Helpline provides a more comprehensive catalog of toxins.

2) Yes, they WILL want to try it – even if you can’t imagine why. You left in the morning not worried at all about the mouthwash, cough drops and toothpaste you left on your bathroom counter. They all smell kind of “mediciney” – no way the dog you adopted last week would want to ingest any of those things, right? Wrong. Animals are naturally curious, especially in newer environments, and often do not share humans’ definitions of smells as “bad” or “mediciney.” And keep in mind, they often use their nose and mouths like we use our hands and fingers: that’s how they experience the world. So for them to sniff and then put something in their mouths that might be harmful isn’t surprising – they are just using the senses they always do to learn about what is around them.

3) Yes, they CAN open that. “Child-proof” packaging means nothing to pets. Medications, both over-the-counter and prescription, should always be kept well out of your pet’s reach because if they can get to it, they can probably get into it. A couple things to keep in mind: pet meds are often flavored so that the pet will more easily take them. Therefore, they smell appetizing and pets may seek them out. Pets can overdose on their medications just as humans can, so keep ALL medications where pets can’t get to them. Also, purses, backpacks and briefcases are NOT absolutely secure. Thousands of pets are sickened or poisoned annually after finding chewing gum or meds or breath mints (yes, even breath mints can be toxic!)  in an accessible bag. (Note: zipping bags shut helps, but some dogs have been known to pull zippers open when something inside smells enticing enough.)

4) Household hazards also occur outside the household. Garages are notoriously perilous for animals – even a few drops of oil, antifreeze or windshield wiper fluid can prove deadly. Threats also lurk in your yard: many insecticides, plant foods, mulches (especially cocoa mulch), types of plants and trees, fertilizers and weed killers are toxic to animals. When planning to work in your garden or have your property landscaped, read the labels of all products that will be used very carefully and ask the landscaper about the toxicity of any chemicals or materials they will be using. Keep in mind, many plants that pose no problems for humans, like ferns or the sago palm, can be fatally toxic for pets. Please do some research before bringing new vegetation into your home or onto your property.

        Basically, there are two rules of thumb when trying to make your home poison-free: first, it’s all about access. Any potential hazard isn’t really one if your pet’s access to it is restricted. Lock medicines away and keep dangerous foods, etc., in closed cabinets, drawers and closets. (Make sure your pets can’t open the doors or drawers.) And second, always err on the side of caution. If you’re not sure if something might be toxic to your pet, assume that it is until you know for a fact otherwise. In this case an ounce of prevention will be worth your pet’s weight in gold.

        For help with questions regarding potential toxins, please visit the ASPCA’s Animal Poison Control page. If you are concerned your pet may have ingested something toxic, please contact your veterinarian immediately, or the ASPCA Poison Emergency line available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year: (888) 426-4435.

         ~ KS


“Chipotle Put its $$ Where its Mouth Is” March 13 2014, 0 Comments

         If you haven’t yet tried Chipotle’s new-ish “Sofritas,” it’s time to get on it. Sofritas is the name the popular Mexican Grill has given to its spicy organic tofu. It’s braised with chipotle chilies, roasted poblano peppers and a combination of spices and it is oh-so-good. No, really – it’s good stuff. Even a couple committed carnivores I know who I talked into trying-it-before-knocking-it finished their burritos with smiles on their faces. But it’s not just its winning flavor that has made a few of us at Rescued Cards big fans. Chipotle’s Sofritas are getting a little love in today’s blog for a variety of reasons, all of which deserve the attention of conscientious consumers. Whether you follow a strict plant-based diet, want to start introducing more vegetables/vegetarian dishes into your diet, or are a “corporate skeptic” eager to learn of a company that’s actually following through on its promise to consider more than just its bottom line, Chipotle’s Sofritas have something to offer.

            If you’re not familiar, Chipotle Mexican Grill began just over 20 years ago in Denver, Colorado. It has long prided itself on creating “gourmet” burritos from the freshest ingredients. Since 1999, Chipotle has become increasingly concerned with the business practices supported in its supply chain, deciding to purchase more locally grown and environmentally friendly vegetables, as well as naturally raised livestock for its meats. It has always offered vegetarian options, but until last year, that meant ordering a meal sans-meat. There was no non-meat protein option. And for years this worked well: Chipotle has long been popular with vegans, vegetarians and omnivores looking for a meatless meal. However, something was missing. As plant-based diets grew in popularity, Chipotle’s customer base began ruing the fact that what they were being offered was a “regular” dish, minus meat; it was a decent option, but in many ways it was a “less than” option.

            At this point, two somewhat remarkable things occurred: first, Chipotle, made famous by its huge steak and chicken burritos, decided that its customers who wanted a meat-alternative mattered, too – despite the fact that they represented a significantly smaller percentage of Chipotle’s target market than the meat eaters did. Second, Chipotle saw the introduction of a non-meat protein source into its ingredient list as being in line with its current corporate motto, “Food with Integrity,” and committed to the cause. This is significant because Chipotle’s first foray into offering a plant-based menu option, the “Garden Blend,” failed back in 2011. It was tested in several restaurants, but wasn’t as popular as the restaurant had hoped. But here’s where it gets interesting: Chipotle didn’t give up. Last year, after finding a spicy, organic (non-gmo) tofu blend Chipotle’s brass felt met their “taste standard” being made at Oakland, California’s Hodo Soy Beanery, Chipotle decided to test “Sofritas” at a handful of restaurants in the San Francisco area. The response there and at other early rollout restaurants has been overwhelming positive; consequently, as of last month, Chipotle officially added Sofritas to its nationwide menu – the first entirely new, main ingredient item added to the menu in 20 years.

            The announcement is making waves across the United States – The Washington Post, ABC News, The Business Insider, Huffington Post, and The Village Voice are just a few of the media outlets reporting on it – and this is a very, very good thing. Why? Because it helps legitimize the desires of those who want more plant-based options. Because it puts restaurants, especially fast food restaurants, on notice: healthy, eco-friendly vegetarian menu items can be integrated into your menu, even if you’ve made your name thus far on beef and chicken. And because it helps demonstrate that “food with integrity” is feasible, and not just a slick slogan. Chipotle has put its money where its mouth is, and by doing so, everybody wins. When’s the last time that happened?

            To learn more about Chipotle Mexican Grill’s Sofritas or the company’s “Food with Integrity” campaign, please visit the Chipotle web site. And check out their "Scarecrow" video, its one of our favorites.

            ~ KS


“Maybe, Just Maybe, Somebody is Listening” March 11 2014, 1 Comment

Back in December, Rescued Cards learned of a coyote and wolf youth hunting derby in Idaho scheduled for the weekend after Christmas and asked you to join us in signing a petition protesting this “sport hunting” event. Despite thousands nationwide speaking out against it, the 1st Annual Salmon Youth Predator Derby was held as scheduled, resulting in the killing of zero wolves and 21 coyotes. The pro-hunting lobby has since used the fact that no wolves were “harvested” to boost their claims that “urbanites” and “radical anti-hunting enviro’s” made much ado about nothing; to them, the protestors were clueless bleeding hearts that know nothing about managing wildlife. Of course, as part of that allegedly clueless throng, we at Rescued Cards were concerned about more than just that weekend’s casualties. Many of us also questioned the wildlife “management” aspects of putting a bounty on living beings and rewarding children financially, and with publicity, for what essentially is killing for sport. To the bleeding hearts among us, making much ado about that is a far cry from making much ado about nothing.

Needless to say, the differences in opinion between the two groups haven’t been resolved. In fact, here we are a scant three months later and the ever-contentious battle over the gray wolf’s fate in the contiguous United States is again making headlines. On the one hand is Idaho, home of the aforementioned “youth derby,” recently contracting with a hunter-trapper to exterminate two entire packs in the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness Area. $30,000 later, 23 wolves are suddenly dead, killed in a helicopter hunting operation last month in a move that has upset even conservation groups that accept hunting as necessary. Further, Governor Butch Otter has apparently proposed allocating $2 million to the creation and implementation of a “Wolf Control Board” to oversee the further reduction of the state’s wolf population (read: it would be responsible for the killing of more wolves). The plan is controversial, even amongst some residents who are hunting-tolerant, but many Idahoans feel their resources are at risk, and feel reducing the number of wolves as quickly as possible is a needed step in the right direction.

However, the news for us clueless bleeding hearts who aren’t convinced all this killing is necessary isn’t all bad: the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has reopened the period for public comment on its plan to remove federal protection of the gray wolf under the Endangered Species Act. The USFWS’s decision to reopen the comment period is in response to a report by a panel of independent scientists that found the plan to delist was based on insufficient science. The panel recommended further investigation; the USFWS has decided to include public sentiment in its inquiry. However, the window for making your views known is closing quickly! U.S. residents have until March 27th to submit their comments. The Sierra Club, amongst several other agencies, has been organizing a letter writing campaign. Thanks to the Internet, it’s incredibly easy to have your voice heard. Please visit The Sierra Club's "11th Hour for Wolves" page to join their letter writing drive, and/or submit your comments directly to the USFWS by clicking here. And if you want to protest Idaho’s plans to continue hiring professional wildlife sharpshooters to exterminate wolves en masse, please sign this Center for Biological Diversity’s petition addressed to Idaho Fish and Game.

Just when it seemed the verdict was in on the USFWS’s plans for the gray wolf we learn the jury may still be out. You have a voice, an opportunity and several options, including, but not limited to, those described above. Now’s the time to share your concern for this icon of the American wilderness. Please speak out before March 27th. Who knows? Maybe this is one of those times that somebody really is listening.

            ~ KS

 


“Beagles Deserve Freedom, Not Cruelty” March 06 2014, 0 Comments

When you think of animal testing – you know, those experiments that use animals as test subjects – what types of animals come to mind? Monkeys, maybe? Or “lab” rats? How about beagles, the loveable breed of dog made famous by its cartoon icon, Snoopy? Though many people do not realize it, beagle dogs are amongst the most tested-upon mammals in the world today… and they have been for a long time. Why? Well, unfortunately for the beagle, it seems some of the very same qualities that have made them a favored pet by many – their generally docile nature, amiable personality, relatively small size and adaptability – make them prime subjects for research. Because they’re small and generally accommodating, many beagles can be housed together, requiring less space and money than other dog breeds and types of animals. This combination of favorable traits has proven irresistible to researches… and lethal to beagles.

        Many people are under the impression that, for the most part, testing on live animals is a thing of the past. With all of the agitating and protesting of the past several years, and what seems like so many companies printing, “Not tested on animals” on their product packaging, a certain nebulous myth has arisen that animals are used in experiments only when absolutely necessary to help cure a human disease. Unfortunately, this is far, far from the truth. All sorts of products – from cosmetics to household cleaners to over-the-counter medications – are tested on live animals before they hit the shelf of your neighborhood store. And there is great debate about the necessity and usefulness of these tests. What isn’t up for debate is that many of these tests are cruel – and beagles often find themselves subjected to the cruelest among them.

        One such test is known as the LD50 (“Lethal Dose 50”) Test. This test is used to determine what single dose of a given substance is needed to kill 50% of the animals in the experiment. Generally, this test proceeds for 14 days, with up to 60 beagles in the test group. Several doses may be given over the span of the two weeks, with dogs often suffering through convulsions, difficulty breathing, becoming unable to stand, sometimes bleeding from their eyes or mouth, and often seizing uncontrollably. It is not unusual for these dogs to howl in pain, but giving any pain relief or “humanely” killing them during the experiment would be considered invalidating the results of the test, so neither is done. If a dog is still alive at the end of the 14 days, it is considered a “survivor,” though survivors may still be killed after the experiment concludes. Beagles are also subject to vivisection and also used in other toxicity tests – some that are long term and record how certain toxins build up in, and affect the dogs’ tissues. In these, the beagles will often suffer a slow and excruciating march toward death, replete with vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions, hyper-salivation, extreme weight loss, kidney damage and liver failure. The test periods for these toxicity tests can range from four weeks to two years, with little or nothing done to mitigate the dogs’ suffering through the course of the experiment. The pain and suffering these dogs endure cannot be put into words, but they can be conveyed in pictures. (Several photos, some quite disturbing, exist online of beagles both during and after experimentation. A simple Google Images search will give you an idea.)

        So what can be done to help the plight of lab beagles? First, become informed and let your pocketbook do the talking: several organizations provide lists like this one from The Vegetarian Site of companies that test on animals. Others, like the Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics, cobble lists of companies that are cruelty free. In addition, there are rescues working to help beagles that survive their tenure in a research lab have a second chance at life afterward. If you want to learn more about how you can help, please contact the Beagle Freedom Project. This organization is working on laws to ensure research facilities release beagles to non-profit rescue organizations instead of killing them after the facilities no long have a use for them. Since its inception in 2010, the Beagle Freedom Project (BFP) has already successfully re-homed over 150 beagles previously used in laboratory research. That’s the great news… the not so great news is that, according to the BFP, there are still over 60,000 beagles sitting research laboratories today in the United States alone, awaiting who knows what kind of fate. Please get involved – help at least some of these escape cruelty and find their way to freedom.

        ~ KS


“Don’t Forget the Little Guys (& Gals)” March 04 2014, 0 Comments

         March is “Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month” and at Rescued Cards, we didn’t want to miss this opportunity to send a shout out on behalf of guinea pigs in need. Started in 2002 by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), the month-long campaign is aimed at raising awareness of guinea pigs (also known as “cavies”) in general, and especially of those in shelters and rescues awaiting forever homes. Though guinea pigs are often thought of as the quintessential pet shop animal, the fact of the matter is, you do not have to purchase one from a store if you want to add one to your family. “Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month” is an attempt to correct the misperception that rescue is not an option when it comes to the loveable guinea pig.

 Photo: "Mr. Tinks" Rescued by Cleveland Animal Protective League - Cleveland, OH.

Artwork Illustration: Zachary Pryor

            If you have never had the opportunity to hang out with a guinea pig, they domake wonderful pets. In fact, the subspecies of cavies we commonly know as guinea pigs, “Cavia porcellus,” is not found in the wild: its domestication has been traced back as far as 5000 BC in South America and it was documented as a popular exotic pet in Elizabethan England, even being favored by Queen Elizabeth I herself. Today, especially in Western society, they remain a popular family pet due to their easy-going temperaments, curious and affectionate personalities and their relative ease of care. Because cavies are generally fairly docile and rarely bite, kids and guinea pigs are usually fast friends (though we’d still recommend, like with all new pets coming into a home, children are educated on the do’s and don’ts). They are low cost to maintain, feed and entertain and live a relatively long time for a small mammal: 5-7 years on average. And it doesn’t hurt that as traveling with pets go, it doesn’t get much easier than hitting the road with a guinea pig. In short, in the hustle and bustle world many of us live in, guinea pigs check many of the boxes on the list for “ideal family pet.”

            However, despite these great qualities and their popularity as pets in some parts of the world, guinea pigs do face challenges. First, just think about why we refer to someone being experimented on as a “guinea pig,” as in, “You want to try out your new sugar-free cookie recipe? Sure, I’ll be your guinea pig.” Guinea pigs have a long history of being tortured subjects in medical, scientific and commercial testing. In the past couple of decades they have largely been replaced by other small mammals in these experiments, but still serve as test subjects, primarily in the study of human medical conditions. Second, guinea pigs do not enjoy “beloved pet” status with everyone: cavies have long been raised as a food staple in places like Peru and Ecuador, a practice that is becoming more popular in the U.S. and around the globe. And lastly, irresponsible pet ownership has led to countless guinea pigs ending up in a shelter, at a rescue, being euthanized due to lack of shelter space, or being left to fend for themselves in the wild. Unfortunately, either inadvertent or intentional breeding leads many overwhelmed guinea pig owners to become overwhelmed guinea pig owners to either dump their unwanted cavies in a vacant field (where they are unlikely to survive for long) or to bring them to a shelter.

            Fortunately, these tragic stories need not all have tragic endings – there are shelters and rescues working to provide cavies with a second chance. If you think a little guy or little gal might make a good pet for you and your family, PLEASE forego the breeder and the local pet store and investigate the possibility of rescuing one instead. Chances are very good there is at least one guinea pig rescue or an animal shelter with cavies in your general vicinity. To learn more about guinea pigs, “Adopt a Rescued Guinea Pig Month,” or how to sponsor a rescued guinea pig, please click here.

            ~KS


"Forever Means... FOREVER" February 27 2014, 1 Comment

Dear Potential Adopter,

        Congratulations on your decision to expand your family by rescuing a homeless animal! Trust me when I tell you this is one of the best decisions you will ever make. And I’m not just saying this as someone who volunteers at a rescue; I’m speaking from experience. As someone fortunate enough to have adopted some truly amazing pups from rescues and shelters, I can’t put into words how much fuller my life has been thanks to my dogs. And it may be entirely in my imagination but I swear they know I was their ticket away from “death row” at a shelter, or away from a prior life of abuse and neglect. The bonds I’ve shared with each of the five dogs I’ve adopted are like no other bonds I’ve ever experienced, and that's something that you have to look forward to if you choose to provide an animal a forever home.

        But before you submit that application to a rescue and let your heart settle on that perfect new companion, let’s talk about that word, “forever.” Though you might not guess it, “forever” apparently means different things to different people. For the vast majority of rescues, “forever” generally equates to a lifetime. That is, when a rescue entrusts one of the souls it has been caring for to an adopter who promises to provide that animal with a loving, nurturing “forever home,” the rescue is expecting that animal will live with the adopter until one of them dies. That’s the understanding and often, that understanding is conveyed somewhere in the adoption contract/paperwork.

        Unfortunately, some adopters have a vastly different understanding of what is meant by “forever home.” I first learned this in an extremely heartbreaking way, when I took a summer job at an animal shelter during my college years. During my first week I was being trained in the “Intake” area when the manager training me described a case that occurred just a scant week before (thankfully it was before) I started: a woman relinquished her twelve and a half-year-old, partially blind Lhasa Apso that she’d raised from a puppy because she had gotten her furniture reupholstered and the colors in the dog’s coat no longer matched the furniture. The dog had done nothing wrong and, despite having slowed down a bit, apparently had plenty of life left. But the woman felt she’d done enough, providing a home for twelve years, and she was done. She left her blind, senior, somewhat tough to re-home dog at our shelter -- a shelter that is not a "no-kill" facility, by the way. For that woman, “forever” was as long as her dog didn’t clash with the couch.

        Clearly, that is an extreme example (and yes, it IS a true story), but it taught me about the really broad spectrum that exists in terms of how people come to define the animals in their lives. And that’s a definition, dear Potential Adopter, which you want to give A LOT of thought to before adopting. Because, though they will probably be more pressing than color schemes in your living room, challenges will come. Maybe you’ll have a baby in the next year or two and the demands on your time and finances will change… will the pet still be welcome? Maybe your employer will transfer you across country… will you be willing to search for pet friendly housing? Maybe the shy puppy you adopted will grow into a dog that pulls you down the street on walks and wants to chase the mail carrier… will you work with a trainer to help correct problem behaviors? And be willing to keep working, and working and working on them? More than likely, challenges will come; the question as you ponder rescuing an animal today is, when they do, how will YOU define “forever?”

        Look, Potential Adopter, I’m not trying to scare you away from rescuing an animal. I love volunteering for a rescue and by far the best decisions I’ve ever made were when I decided to bring home the dogs I’ve adopted. I just want to help make sure you and the rescue (or shelter) you deal with are on the same page. When those of us in rescue use words like “forever home” or “family member” in reference to the animals we’re trying to re-home, we mean those things in fairly literal ways. And just as you wouldn’t give away your daughter because you developed an allergy to her hair, we expect you’d exhaust every conceivable option before giving up on your Himalayan mix under similar circumstances. From the rescue’s perspective, an animal is a life – not an object, not an accessory, not a possession and not a matter of convenience. Bringing such a life into yours IS a huge commitment, but having that level of investment – of commitment – is also what makes being a pet parent great. It’s what lays the foundation for the incredibly joyful, incredibly intense bonds many of us have formed with the animals in our lives.

        So… if you’re truly ready to put the “forever” in “forever home,” then thank you for choosing rescue! And thank you for being prepared to go all in!

        ~ KS

 


“It’s World Spay Day – Vow to Save a Life” February 25 2014, 0 Comments

        Today marks the 20th anniversary of “World Spay Day.” World Spay Day is a joint campaign of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and Humane Society International (HSI) that aims to raise awareness about the importance and accessibility of spaying and neutering companion and community animals (such as street dogs and stray/feral cats). As part of the campaign, HSUS and HSI coordinate with veterinarians and animal care clinics worldwide to provide free or low cost spay and neuter surgeries today and throughout the month of February. In addition, several organizations and businesses host fundraisers to support low cost spay and neuter services and provide educational materials. Over the past two decades, World Spay Day has grown from an event coordinating a handful of agencies to having several hundred animal welfare organizations, vet clinics, pet-related business and individuals participate this year. While the increased participation is fantastic, the fact that such a large, coordinated effort is still so badly needed illustrates the urgency of the world’s homeless pet problem.

Photo: "BUDDY" an alumni from The Barking Lot Dog Rescue - San Diego, CA

        If you’re reading this blog chances are pretty good that you’re already fairly aware of the importance of spaying and neutering pets. Unfortunately, not everyone has gotten the message. According to the HSUS, there are roughly 3500 animal shelters taking in somewhere between 6-8 million cats and dogs yearly in the United States alone. (This number does NOT include other companion animals such as rabbits, hamsters and birds.) Of these, about 2.7 million healthy, but unclaimed, pets are euthanized annually. Odds are particularly bad for cats: the HSUS estimates that only 2-5 percent of shelter cats get reclaimed by owners. Even with these staggering numbers and with increased efforts to educate owners about the pet overpopulation problem, chances are very good you know someone who refuses to spay or neuter their pet. If that’s the case, several organizations including, but not limited to, the HSUS, HSI, the ASPCA and The Anti-Cruelty Society all provide lists of solid reasons supporting spay and neuter. A few of the most common arguments:

1)   Neutered male dogs are less likely to roam and more likely to be better behaved.

2)   Spayed females won’t go into heat. This generally means less mess and less misery.

3)   Spaying and neutering is good for your community. Stray dogs and cats pose various problems; if they are unaltered, that list of problems becomes longer. Unaltered pets have a tendency to be more aggressive and of course, often find other unaltered animals and produce unwanted/unplanned for litters. And of course, unaltered pets are more likely than altered ones to become wanderers in the first place.

4)   Generally speaking, neutered males and spayed females are healthier and live longer than unaltered pets. For instance, neutering your male puppy before 6 months of age will basically prevent him from getting testicular cancer.

5)   Spaying and neutering is cost effective. Regardless of the cost of the surgery, it’s less than the cost to care for, and find new homes for, a litter of puppies or kittens.

        If you or someone you know remains unconvinced, please see more good reasons to spay or neuter on this ASPCA web page, or on this handout from HSI. Or, just take a moment to imagine what it must be like to be an animal shelter worker responsible for euthanizing healthy pets because you need to make space for other animals that may have a better shot at being reclaimed or adopted into a new home. You have to walk a perfectly healthy animal (maybe one of your favorites that you play with often) into a room and watch the life drain out of it. And that scenario happens day after day, across this country and around the world. But it doesn’t have to… if we all take a vow to spay and neuter our pets and help others spay and neuter theirs.

        For information on World Spay Day events, on how you can support World Spay Day, or to learn how you can take advantage of low cost or free spay and neuter services, please visit the official World Spay Day web site.

        ~ KS


"Whatever Became of...?" February 20 2014, 0 Comments

    

       Over the course of the past nine months, we’ve covered dozens of topics in this blog. And judging from the numerous emails, comments and Facebook posts we’ve seen in response, several of those posts have piqued the curiosity – or in some cases, kindled the outrage – of many of you. Several readers have reached out wanting to know how things have turned out or how to become more involved, so we thought we’d revisit a few of our past posts. Here is an update on some of our most asked about topics:

1) Horse slaughter in New Mexico

        In the July 2, 2013 post entitled, “What Goes Around…” we reported on how the United States Department of Agriculture had approved the opening of the first horse slaughterhouse for meat production to operate in the United States since such facilities were effectively banned by Congress back in 2007. Valley Meat Company had planned to turn its recently shuttered beef “processing” plant in Roswell, New Mexico into a horsemeat processing facility, with the first slaughter planned for January 1, 2014. While equine meat for human consumption remains illegal in the United States, it is not illegal in many other nations and Valley Meat Company looks to profit from that industry. Where it stands now: The ASPCA mounted a petition campaign, which Rescued Cards joined, protesting legalized horse slaughter in the U.S. Several other agencies and advocates, as well as a few politicians, including NM Attorney General Gary King, have also joined the fight. Last month, a Santa Fe district judge issued a preliminary injunction against Valley Meat Company, at least temporarily stalling the opening of the slaughterhouse, and buying the 20 horses slated for the initial slaughter a bit of a reprieve. Almost simultaneously, President Obama signed a budget measure that prevents the U.S.D.A. from funding necessary inspections for these plants, further fortifying the efforts to halt horse slaughter in the United States. Still, the fight in New Mexico goes on. To join the fight, please see the ASPCA's page on horse slaughter.

2) Bullfighting in Tijuana

        The August 1, 2014 post – “Help Tijuana Become a Bullfighting Free Zone” – detailed the efforts of our rescue partner, Friends of the Humane Society of Tijuana (HSTJ), to bring an end to that brutal blood sport. At the time HSTJ was asking people to take a short survey that they hoped would demonstrate that bullfighting is not a big draw for visitors to Mexico. Where it stands now: Unfortunately, bullfighting remains legal and prized in Tijuana – local hotels and tourism agencies are publicizing that fights will return to Tijuana’s two main bullfighting arenas come this spring. However, all is not lost: in 2013, Sonora became the first state in Mexico to ban bullfighting as part of a larger law against cruelty to animals. If you’d like to take action against the incredibly inhumane practice of bullfighting, please click here.

3) Rhino Hunt Auction

        On November 14th, we asked if auctioning off the chance to hunt an endangered black rhinoceros as a fundraiser for rhinoceros conservation was a “Moral Dilemma? Or Moral Delusion?” In one of the stranger and more disturbing stories we came across last year, the Dallas Safari Club had announced plans to auction a permit allowing someone to hunt and kill one of the rarest mammals on earth – the extremely endangered black rhinoceros. The twist: proceeds from the auction were to go toward conservation efforts aimed at protecting black rhinos. Where it stands now: Despite immense outrage and several petitions attempting to block the auction, it went off without a hitch last month. Corey Knowlton, a Dallas-based hunting consultant, paid $350,000 for the right to go to Namibia and kill a black rhinoceros in the wild. Protests continue; Knowlton claims those upset about the auction have threatened him and his children. He also claims that his hunt will help protect rhinos across Namibia and is a smart and necessary conservation strategy. While that is clearly open to debate, one thing that isn’t is that we haven’t seen the last of this rationalization for trophy hunting.

4) Million Pibble March:

        We’re happy to report that plans for Rebecca Corry’s upcoming event to call attention to the abuse of, and discrimination against, pit bulls – aka the “One Million Pibble March” – are coming together. As we noted in our post on December 18th (“Who Knew $1 Could Go So Far?”), Corry is trying to get people to pledge their support $1 at a time. Where it stands now: So far, her Stand Up for Pits Foundation has reached 53% of the amount needed to fund the One Million Pibble March, scheduled for May 4, 2014 in Washington, D.C. This is an incredibly important event, aimed at raising awareness about the awesomeness of pibbles and the ineffectiveness and unfairness of breed restrictive legislation. If you have a dollar or two to spare for this worthy cause, want to learn more about it, or want to purchase an über-cool One Million Pibble March t-shirt, please click here.

        We’ll continue to keep you updated on these and other important issues; if you have questions on other topics we’ve touched on in this blog, leave a comment and let us know!

        ~ KS


"Make this YOUR Olympic Moment" February 18 2014, 2 Comments

        Quick: what do you remember most about last year’s Boston Marathon? The anguished faces of those injured in the bombing? The news footage of the bomb going off near the finish line? Seeing the entire Boston metro area on lockdown as officials zeroed in on the accused bombers? While I vividly remember all of that, none of it is what stands out about that tragic event. Instead, when I think back on the 2013 Boston Marathon what comes to mind first and foremost are the reports of runners crossing the finish-line, exhausted and dehydrated, and running on to the nearest hospital to donate blood for the victims. I have no idea who won the marathon, how many people finished or why, for that matter, anyone would do something as awful as bomb the race. But I do know that everyone who chipped in that day to help others – especially those who ran to a hospital after already running 26.2 miles – won the day, regardless of where they placed in the race.

        And maybe that helps explain why Lindsey Jacobellis has emerged as my favorite U.S. Olympic Athlete in Sochi, despite not even getting close to winning a medal. See Jacobellis, a snowboarder who won silver at the 2006 Games and who was the favorite in Snowboard Cross this year, failed to earn a medal a few days ago when, leading in her semifinal heat, she fell… and subsequently fell out of medal contention. A bitter blow for perhaps the most dominant woman in snowboard cross history, made all-the-worse by the fact that she suffered a similar fall four years ago at the 2010 Vancouver Games when, again, she was in the lead and the gold medal favorite. And while some athletes (understandably so) might be swallowed by the disappointment of the moment, here’s what Jacobellis is doing instead: she is adopting one of the stray dogs of Sochi and bringing it back to Connecticut with her. Far from leaving Russia empty-handed, Jacobellis is joining teammate Gus Kenworthy (who, in addition to winning silver in Slopestyle Skiing, is adopting four puppies and their mother), in becoming an Olympic hero of a different kind: she’s saving a life and in the process, bringing home something even more valuable than Olympic hardware.

        Of course, the fact that Jacobellis and Kenworthy are Olympic athletes is helping to bring attention to the shame of Sochi: Russian authorities decided to exterminate thousands of stray dogs prior to, and during, the Winter Olympics. Sochi city officials contracted with a company to poison and shoot the dogs, many of which became homeless when their family homes were demolished so that venues housing Olympic events could be built. Fortunately for some of the dogs, at least, the international press arrived for the Games and began reporting on the plight of Sochi’s strays. Since then, rescuers have descended upon the town, desperately trying to help find homes or temporary housing for the dogs before they’re killed. The situation is as dire as Sochi’s extermination plan is reprehensible. But… just as was the case amidst the chaos of the Boston Marathon bombing, the worst of circumstances often brings out the best in people. Certainly, we’re seeing that in the efforts of the rescuers, the actions of Oleg Deripaska, the Russian billionaire who is funding an impromptu shelter on the outskirts of Sochi to help some of the strays find new homes, and in the willingness of Lindsey Jacobellis and Gus Kenworthy to adopt and fly a few of the homeless pups halfway around the world. Talk about having the hearts of champions.

        They’ve done their part; now it’s up to the rest of us. According to several media outlets and animal rights organizations, hundreds of dogs have already been killed, but there are still hundreds, if not thousands, of Sochi strays that can be saved. If you are interested, Humane Society International has prepared an informational page with suggestions about the adoption process. But even if you’re not prepared to bring a dog home from Sochi, you can still help. You can donate to Humane Society International or other organizations that work to protect “street dogs.” You can also join Rescued Cards in pledging to keep an eye on future Olympics. The Sochi Games were billed as the most environmentally friendly Games in history – and in just the area of animal rights (wild orcas caught and exhibited in a small tank, an endangered dolphin forced to “entertain” audiences in the opening ceremony, and hundreds of dogs brutally killed) they failed miserably. Please contact the International Olympic Committee and let them know we demand better for the 2016 Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro. You may not win an Olympic medal, but that doesn’t mean you can’t make a difference in the Games.

            ~ KS 


"Add Mother Nature to Your Valentine's List" February 14 2014, 0 Comments

           

Photo: "BOOMER" from The Barking Lot Dog Rescue - & Hes currently avaible for adoption!! This Big Boy gives BIG KISSES!!!

     Looking for a last minute Valentine’s Gift? Whether your Valentine is a romantic partner, a friend, a family member or a grade school classmate, they’re sure to appreciate you throwing a little love their way. However, if you’re going to celebrate this February 14th, you might as well show Mother Nature a little love as well. Here are a few suggestions for making this Valentine’s Day not only special, but also cruelty-free:

            Home Cooking: Is the way to your Valentine’s heart through their stomach? If so, there are several delicious and eco-friendly ways to win them over. If you like to cook or bake yourself, check out these tasty recipes for all sorts of sweets, from Red Velvet Cupcakes to Chocolate Cashew Tarts. If you need more inspiration, try one of these "sinfully good & cruelty-free" treats courtesy of One Green Planet or one of these cookie recipes from Om Nom Nom Cookies. Prefer to focus on meals as opposed to desserts? One Green Planet again has some suggestions that might help: start Valentine’s Day off right with one of these 25 Vegan Breakfast in Bed Recipes.

            Sweet Treats: If you’re somewhat of a Valentine’s traditionalist, you may be nervous that your efforts to be environmentally conscious will limit your options when it comes to candy, chocolate, etc. But never fear! There are PLENTY of healthy, cruelty-free treats to choose from -- here are a few suggestions:

            For a variety of candies, try the Natural Candy Store.

            Did someone say (vegan) cheesecake? Try these from Vegan Treats.

            Make a chocoholic’s day with organic and gourmet chocolates from The Vegan Store.

            Don’t forget your furry Valentines! Max & Ruffy's makes some great vegan dog treats!

            Gifts for a Cause: Okay, if you order one of these, it’ll probably reach your Valentine a little late. Who cares? This is one of those times when late really is (MUCH) better than never. First, you’ll be doing a good deed. And second, your Valentine is bound to be impressed by said good deed. It’s truly a “win-win:”

            Vegan Valentine's Chocolates courtesy of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)

            Adopt a Wild Animal through the Sierra Club. Your Valentine will receive a plush toy version of the animal; the Sierra Club will use your donation to help protect your chosen wild animal.

            Support vegan-friendly businesses by ordering a Snack Box subscription from Vegan Cuts and have a monthly box of plant-based snacks delivered to your Valentine’s door.

            Tried & True E-cards: At the end of the day, it’s awfully hard to go wrong on Valentine’s Day by giving a Valentine. Fortunately, several eco-friendly organizations are offering FREE Ecards this year:

            Om Nom Nom Cookies

            Vegan Peace

            Care 2

            World Wildlife Fund

            Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone! If you’re still brainstorming what to give, hopefully the above has proven helpful. Remember, every day – Valentine’s Day included – is the perfect day to embrace eco-friendly ways. As you’re celebrating your loved ones, don’t forget to show Mother Nature a little love as well!

            ~ KS


"Happy Black History Month!" February 12 2014, 0 Comments

           

 

     February is Black History Month, a time when the history, culture and contributions of Blacks from throughout the African diaspora are studied and celebrated. Consequently, this is the perfect time to shine the spotlight on some of the activism that Blacks worldwide have done on behalf of animals, animal rights and the environment. Unfortunately, a misperception has evolved that Blacks have not been active in animal and environmental welfare movements – nothing could be further from the truth. So, in celebration of Black History Month, here are three Black activists whose animal/environmental-friendly exploits are to be commended, learned from and shared:

            Alice Walker – If you didn’t realize that the Pulitzer Prize winning author is a longtime vegetarian who has written (and spoken) extensively on animal rights, that may not be by accident: Walker is one of the United States’ most celebrated, and most banned, authors. In some cases, that’s specifically because of her efforts to get humans to rethink their relationships with animals: her essay, “Am I Blue?” for instance, was removed from the 10th-grade California Learning Assessment System exam in part because it was perceived possibly to advocate a meatless “nutritional lifestyle.” But if you haven’t read this essay, which is the story of a horse, Blue, who experiences what most people consider very “human” emotions and pain, it’s a beautifully written plea to extend our humanity to the animals around us. In addition, Walker – clearly not afraid of controversy – has waded into the ever-contentious waters of comparing human and animal slavery. In her Foreward for Marjorie Spiegel’s book, The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery (1997), Walker argues passionately against the type of rationalization that places humans at the top of an illusory hierarchy of importance: "The animals of the world exist for their own reasons. They were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites or women for men." Some consider her stances on issues such as these “radical,” but for both reasoned and emotional/empathetic arguments in favor of animal rights, Alice Walker’s writings are tough to beat. (“I Am Blue” is available for free online and The Dreaded Comparison is available in many libraries and bookstores, as well as at Amazon.com).

            Dick Gregory – The longtime Civil Rights activist, comedian and prolific author has been considered controversial for almost as long as he has been in the public eye. Known for politically oriented humor, as well as for being outspoken on issues such as racism, classism, sexism and U.S. domestic and foreign policy, Gregory has also been a strong proponent for animal rights for decades. His work in this area has not garnered as much attention as has his advocacy on these other issues, but it is not for lack of trying. Gregory has been a vegetarian for over 50 years, started his own vegetarian health food company in the 1980s, and has both penned a letter to KFC and shot an anti-animal cruelty TV spot on behalf of PETA. He has spoken and written extensively on how, to his mind, vegetarianism is a logical extension of his nonviolent civil disobedience: “Under the leadership of Dr. King, I became totally committed to nonviolence, and I was convinced that nonviolence meant opposition to killing in any form. I felt the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' applied to human beings not only in their dealings with each other -- war, lynching, assassination, murder and the like -- but in their practice of killing animals for food or sport. Animals and humans suffer and die alike….” If you’d like to see and hear Gregory speak on health, vegetarianism or animal rights, there are several video clips to choose from up on YouTube, and his book, Dick Gregory's Natural Diet for Folks Who Eat: Cookin' With Mother Nature! (1973) is considered an early classic in the raw foods/plant-based diet movement.

            Archbishop Desmond Tutu -- The Nobel Peace Prize winner, who was the first ever Black Archbishop of Cape Town, South Africa and who originally rose to prominence as a relentless opponent of apartheid, has since continued advocating not only for human rights, but for animal rights as well. Considered a global leader in confronting issues such as oppression, discrimination and exploitation, Tutu has spoken about challenging injustice in all its forms for years. But recently, the activist has decided to take the fight further, issuing what has been called his first major written declaration regarding animal welfare. A major, new, multi-disciplinary collection of essays, collected and edited by Andrew Linzey, director of the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics, was published just this past December. The Global Guide to Animal Protection offers essays and insights from some of the world’s leading scientists and animal welfare advocates – and includes a Foreword by Archbishop Tutu imploring people to view the fight for human rights and the fight for animal rights to be similar, intertwined struggles: “But there are other issues of justice – not only for human beings but also for the world’s other sentient creatures. The matter of the abuse and cruelty we inflict on other animals has to fight for our attention in what sometimes seems an already overfull moral agenda. It is vital, however, that these instances of injustice not be overlooked.If you would like to read the entirety of Archbishop Tutu’s Foreward, The Global Guide to Animal Welfare is available at Amazon.com.

            Happy Black History Month, everyone!

            ~ KS


"Before it's Too Late" February 06 2014, 0 Comments

        Pinta Island Tortoise. Western Black Rhinoceros. Caribbean Monk Seal. Canarian Oystercatcher. Javan Tiger. Mariana Mallard. Dusky Seaside Sparrow. Pyrenean Ibex. Ivory-billed Woodpecker. Japanese Sea Lion. Golden Toad. Poʻouli or Black-faced Honeycreeper. Liverpool Pigeon. Alaotra Grebe. Zanzibar Leopard. Platypus Frog. Cape Verde Giant Skink. Holdridge's Toad. Baiji Dolphin. Round Island Burrowing Boa. Japanese River Otter.

        For those of us who are “Gen Xers,” the list above represents just a few of the species that have been declared extinct during our lifetimes. In fact, about half of these species have disappeared just since the turn of the century. While, tragically, there is nothing we can do to save and revive these animals, there is a species we can prevent from joining their ranks: the beautiful, but greatly imperiled, Florida panther. But if we’re going to save the panther, we have to act fast – as in NOW!

        While biologists continue to debate whether the Florida panther is a truly distinct subspecies of North American cougar or not, there is at least one fact about the big cat that no one disputes: it is now so critically endangered that it has become one of the rarest mammals on earth. Despite once being common throughout the Southeastern United States, experts now estimate that only 100-160 panthers remain in the wild. It’s range has dwindled from several states to just a few pockets of mostly swampland in southern Florida (with young males occasionally roaming into the northern part of the state). In 2013, several organizations including Defenders of Wildlife, the Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, the Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation, amongst others, all made the Florida panther a top conservation priority and again called upon local, state and federal officials to do more to protect the species. And now, at the beginning of 2014, the call to action is even more urgent.

photo: http://wusfnews.wusf.usf.edu

        So what happened to the Florida panther? Many of the usual culprits have posed threats: hunting, depletion of traditional food sources, pollution and toxins (including documented cases of mercury toxicity beginning in the 1980s), fatal run-ins with humans and loss of habitat. Unfortunately, despite being Florida’s official state animal, the Florida panther has, until relatively recently, been considered more of a nuisance by its home state than a treasure. In 1832, a bounty was placed on the panther by every county in Florida, and several other areas throughout the South followed suit. In addition, due to a breakout of disease, the Florida legislature passed a bill in 1937 to eradicate the white-tailed deer population in the state, decimating a main food source. However, since the panther was listed as “endangered” under Florida state law in 1958 and gained federal protection under the Endangered Species Act in 1973, the two biggest threats to panthers that remain, BY FAR, are loss of habitat and disease.

        Because the numbers of wild panthers have dwindled to precariously low numbers (experts estimate as few as 20-30 panthers remained in the wild in the 1980s before Texas cougars were relocated into the region in an attempt to increase the number of mating pairs and introduce some genetic diversity), scientists warn that Florida panthers are extremely vulnerable to feline diseases and other environmental hazards. Increasing genetic diversity is key to strengthening the panthers’ immune systems, so introducing similar subspecies into the breeding population is a strategy that is gaining momentum. Probably even more pressing is the issue of habitat loss, both to housing/structural development as well as to transportation development. Over the past several years, vehicles have killed more panthers than anything else; according to the Sierra Club, 18 Florida panthers lost their lives to cars in 2012, which is three times higher than the next closest cause of death (“intraspecific aggression,” or run-ins with humans).

        The Florida panther is a beautiful animal, important to Southeastern ecosystems, that prefers remote wilderness, and that poses nowhere near the risk to humans that we pose to it. We have almost doomed this species to the fate of the Dodo bird, but right here, right now, we have a chance to save it. Please get involved. Please alert your representatives in Congress that you want more done to protect the Florida panther and its habitat, join Defenders of Wildlife's efforts to convince the Department of the Interior and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to set aside critical panther habitat, and see Defenders of Wildlife’s Florida panther page to learn more about this elusive creature and what you can do to help it survive.

        Been wanting to make a difference? NOW is your chance… before it’s too late.

        ~ KS


“Time for the Big Game – Puppy Bowl X!” January 30 2014, 0 Comments

           

"McKenna" from The Barking Lot Dog Rescue. Available for adoption.

          Grab your chips, your dips, your bowls of pretzels and M & M’s and stake out your favorite seat in front of the TV, because this coming Sunday, Feb. 2nd, is all about the annual Big Game – Puppy Bowl X! Apparently, there’s also this other game that will be broadcast on Sunday, but, with all due apologies to serious gridiron fans and people who love over-hyped commercials, only one of these contests consistently lives up its billing, year after year… and that’s Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl.

In the back "Brucey Boy" and  in the front "Booger (Trumpet)" from The Barking Lot Dog Rescue. Available for adoption.

            If you’ve never tuned in, you’ve been missing out. The Puppy Bowl brings together puppies from shelters and rescues around the United States, throws them onto a make-shift football field and let’s them do what puppies do – mainly play. There’s a referee, countless toys, a “water bowl cam,” and basically one rule: when a puppy crosses a goal line while carrying a toy, that pup is awarded a touchdown. (An MVP is named at the end of the game and generally the pup that scores the most has a leg up, so to speak, in the voting.) In addition to the on-field competition, this year’s game will again feature the kitty halftime show and hamster-piloted blimp for overhead shots, and will also be adding penguin cheerleaders, interactive MVP voting and live viewer Instagram submissions. If it sounds chaotic, it sort of is… but it’s a somewhat controlled chaos that generally results in plenty of hilarity and cuteness.

In the back "Shep" and in the front "Cassidy" from The Barking Lot Dog Rescue. Available for adoption.

"Rosarita" from The Barking Lot Dog Rescue. Available for adoption.

            However, at Rescued Cards, we’re not just fans of the Puppy Bowl because of its entertainment value. Funny as it often is, this event actually serves a couple very serious, important functions. First, all of the pups showcased are from shelters and rescues, which raises awareness about adopting versus purchasing pets and provides these organizations much-needed publicity to help them place their other animals. Also, several of the puppies that participate are purebreds. This helps dispel the myth that those interested in a specific breed must get their dog from a breeder or pet store. Many rescues and shelters adopt out purebred dogs – even those that are “all-breed” agencies will often get in purebred dogs and puppies. We hope potential adopters will take a cue from the Puppy Bowl and turn to rescues and shelters for their furry family members, whether looking for a mixed breed or a purebred.

"Boomer" from The Barking Lot Dog Rescue. Available for adoption.

            Perhaps the most amazing thing about the Puppy Bowl is that it just keeps on going and growing. Now in its tenth year, it has even garnered the attention of the White House: first Lady Michelle Obama and the presidential pups, Bo and Sunny, hosted a training camp for Puppy Bowl participants last October. Clips from the session will air during this Sunday’s broadcast, and hopefully the additional attention will help Puppy Bowl X pick up where Puppy Bowl IX left off: last year’s version brought in over 12 million viewers over the course of its 12-hour marathon (Animal Planet re-broadcasts the game throughout the day). Its formula isn’t complicated, but it sure seems to be effective.

"Boscoe" from The Barking Lot Dog Rescue. Available for adoption.

            In preparation for the Big Game this Sunday, visit Animal Planet’s Puppy Bowl X page and learn about the starting lineup, back up players, the kitty stars of the halftime show, numerous rescues and shelters that help re-home these animals and more. Most importantly, get the word out and support this rescue and adoption friendly event! The premiere broadcast begins on Animal Planet at 3pm Eastern/Pacific time (check your local listings in other time zones). Tune in, sit back and enjoy the fun!

            ~ KS


“Giving the Condor a Fighting Chance” January 28 2014, 0 Comments

        It’s 2014 and if you’ve got a keen eye, happen to be in the right spot in southern California, Baja California (Mexico) or in the Grand Canyon region and get a little bit lucky, you might just see a California condor in the wild. And if you don’t know anything about this majestic and resilient bird’s tragic history, you may not realize how incredibly improbable that statement would’ve seemed just a few short years ago. After decades of steady decline in their population numbers, only 22 California condors were known to exist in the world by 1987 – and the last of those that were free flying were taken into captivity in an effort to save the species from extinction. The thought of seeing a California condor in the wild? For most of the past quarter century, you had a better chance of seeing Bigfoot.

        Fortunately for the California condor and for all of us, really, its march into the annals of extinction has been interrupted, hopefully indefinitely. From that low of 22 known condors, the species’ number has grown to approximately 435, with 227 of those living in the wild. This is the result of a multi-pronged approach to recovery, including an aggressive captive breeding program, intense research into potential threats, legislated protection of condor habitat, medical intervention for poisoned and unhealthy birds and advocating for condor-friendly regulations for hunters, farmers and pesticides. After more than four years without a single known free flying California condor, a few were reintroduced into the wild in 1991. Though 227 may not seem like an overwhelming number, given that condors only lay one egg per reproduction cycle, there seems to be reason to be cautiously optimistic about the condor’s prospects for recovery.

        However, this is clearly a work in progress – which is why paying attention to ongoing efforts is of paramount importance. Condors are not only incredibly impressive birds, with the ability to soar up to altitudes of 15,000 feet, life spans up to 80 years and wingspans often stretching over nine feet, they are also integral parts of the ecosystem. They consume carrion, and as efficient scavengers, they help break down organic material so that ultimately, the nutrients therein can be released back into the environment. While this is essential in the food chain, it also puts the condor in a precarious position. Condors are susceptible to the chemicals and toxic materials eaten by the animals they consume – poisons such as Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane (“DDT”) and lead. Several studies suggest that, in addition to loss of habitat, toxic chemicals have posed, and continue to pose, the greatest threat to California condors, with lead poisoning being a leading concern. Consequently, many wild condors are trapped, tagged and have blood tests about twice a year. Those that test positive for lead poisoning receive chelation therapy to remove the lead. And unfortunately, though DDT was banned as a pesticide in the United States in 1972 and worldwide under the 2001 Stockholm Convention, it is very persistent in the environment: research from the last few years suggests that DDT used long ago is still negatively impacting condor eggs to this day.

        So what can be done now to help California’s most recognizable bird as it fights its way back from the brink of extinction? An important step was taken this past fall when California Governor Jerry Brown signed a law banning the use of lead ammunition by hunters. (The law is scheduled to take effect in 2019.) Continued advocacy on the regulation and reduction of harmful pesticides will help, as will respecting and protecting condor habitat. Defenders of Wildlife provides information on making rural areas and new development more condor-friendly, as well as on how to ensure that condor country consists solely of lead-free zones. Equally important, but even simpler to do, we can all focus on reducing, reusing and recycling – the less plastic and other trash that ends up in our environment, the better off California condors will be. Remember, condors are scavengers – they rarely walk away from trash, though plastic and other human-created debris often prove fatal for these birds.

        With just a bit of diligence and some concerted effort, we can help these striking birds have a fighting chance. The California condors’ story is one that is begging to be considered a successful conservation story – it’s off to a good start. But it will take all of us to make sure this saga has its proper ending.

        ~ KS

 


"Stop the Hunts!" January 24 2014, 0 Comments

           This past Wednesday, January 22nd, the eyes of the global dolphin conservation community once again fell upon Taiji, Japan. That’s because the annual mid-season slaughter of bottlenose dolphins took place in Taiji’s infamous cove on Wednesday, resulting in over 500 dolphins being rounded up, their individual fates still to be determined. Japanese officials claim fewer than 100 will be killed or sold into captivity, with the others being released. Conservation and animal rights groups challenge that relatively “high” release rate, claiming that generally a higher percentage of the dolphins Taiji fishermen drive into the cove end up dead or injured. Either way, the number of dolphins terrorized annually by drive hunts like this latest one in Taiji, then killed or doomed to a life of misery in captivity is too high. And it’s time this practice was stopped.

            Unfortunately, dolphins do not share the same international protections that whales do (though Japanese fishing fleets often ignore the international ban on whaling as well); the International Whaling Commission (IWC) does not regulate the hunting of dolphins and other smaller cetaceans. Consequently, dolphins are hunted and captured largely at will around the globe. While several countries and cultures engage in the fishing of dolphins, large-scale, brutal drive hunts have become a favored method of hunting in Japan (as well as a few other places such as the Faroes, Islands in Denmark). Boats and divers chase pods of dolphins into an enclosed space – such as a cove – using sounds, tarps and other means to confuse the animals. Netting entangles them, and separates pod (i.e. family) members. This is particularly hard on dolphins – they aren’t only “social” animals, as they are often described in the media. As extremely intelligent and, many scientists now agree, emotive beings, they seem to form strong attachments to other members of their pods. Scientists have observed dolphins mourning the death of a “loved one,” and the protectiveness of this species for one another, especially when one is in distress, is well documented. To liken the chase, physical abuse and forced segregation these animals endure in a drive hunt to a form of torture is no stretch.

           And of course, the actual killing is anything but painless. Japanese officials have stated fishermen are now using a more “humane” method of killing: they are now severing the spinal cords of the dolphins, causing instant death. (This contention of instant death, by the way, is challenged by numerous parties – some conservation groups claim this method generally results in paralysis, not death, and that the dolphins are still fully aware until they slowly drown or they are gutted.) Note to defenders of this practice: if the cornerstone of your “improved humanity” is the ramming of a metal rod into a fully aware being, followed by the hammering of a wooden plug into the hole left when the rod was removed, “hoping” that the rod’s insertion will kill the animal, but knowing there is at least a decent chance it will not, you need to review the meaning of “humane.”

            This newer, allegedly less brutal method of killing has been adopted as a response to the international outrage expressed after Louie Psihoyos’s documentary The Cove was released in 2009. In it, covert cameras captured the bloodied waters of the Taiji Cove as the dolphins were killed primarily by multiple spear thrusts. The severed spinal cord method produces less blood… it is entirely debatable as to whether it results in a sizeable increase in the humaneness of the whole process.

           If you are interested in learning more about the drive hunts in Taiji, please visit the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society’s page dedicated to this issue, see the videos and Tweets the Sea Shepherds Cove Guardians have posted from the hunts, and/or watch The Cove, which is available for streaming at Amazon.com Please note: this is NOT an easy movie to watch, which speaks to why we probably all need to try to make ourselves watch it. Even though the actual mode of death has largely changed in Taiji, these brutal drive hunts remain. We implore you to get educated, agitated and active. PLEASE join Rescued Cards in supporting Sea Shepherd’s efforts to bring an end to dolphin drive hunts – all the information you need to contact the appropriate authorities is listed here.

~ KS