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Archive for October, 2011
When the Occupy Wall Street protests began to thrive in the US and around the world, frequent commentary on lack of focus or specific demands seem to litter the media. But the more I watched and waited, I began to realize this movement has never been out of focus, it’s just too big for our current lens.
Some realization came while watching a compelling commentary by a literature graduate student in NY regarding his efforts to establish a library at the Occupy Wall Street demonstrations (see YouTube). He knew that his efforts to simply provide knowledge was a protest in itself.
This is equally true with the issue of animal welfare. Once people are aware of animal cruelty and torture — particularly in the case of farm animals — no matter how gruesome the reality may be, the knowledge of the issue allows us the option to forgo participation in a cruel system, and often easily disarm the problem by economic participation in the alternatives.
But this isn’t breaking news….
As was so eloquently reported by One Green Planet and effectively detailed in this article by the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the ‘Occupy’ movement has included the welfare of animals as a justifiable demand on the reform of, not just corporate America, but America in general.
From vegan-ism to banning pet stores sales, our struggle to stop the cruel and horrific treatment of farm, wild and companion animals has often glided along side other issues of inflation, pesticide use, heart disease and environmental degradation — or so we may have thought.
But, as it turns out, we are not alone — whether meat eater, farmer, feral cat rescuer, hunter or conservation biologist, none of us wants the cruel treatment of animals, just like none of us wants to be controlled by corporations exhibiting greed, inequality and illegal or abusive action.
So I find it very natural that Occupy protests include the demand for corporations to end the cruel, industrialized and institutionalized treatment of animals. This demand is no longer too big to be considered for mass reform. In fact at this point, improving welfare for animals in all situations, is practically a simple first step.
Oct. 12, 2011
In the last few years, a growing number of cities have taken a proactive measure against animal homelessness by banning the retail sale of dogs and cats. South Lake Tahoe led the way with its city council unanimously voting in a ban, followed by Albuquerque, N. M. West Hollywood, Calif.; Austin, Texas; Fort Worth, Fla.; and Glendale, Calif., have most recently followed suit. The city council for the largest city in Canada — Toronto — unanimously voted to ban the retail sale of dogs and cats just recently.
These cities acted on a local level to tackle a regional problem: industrialized breeding of kittens and puppies (a. k. a. puppy mills) and pet overpopulation, leading to mass euthanasia in city pounds and shelters. Pet overpopulation is a municipal problem that costs cities and communities hundreds of thousands of dollars in shelter costs, cruelty investigations and euthanasia.
Puppy and kitten mills are found almost anywhere in Washington state and elsewhere in the United States. And while retailers can make considerable profit selling animals, the reality is that breeding dogs and cats is not profitable under humane conditions. Hence, we have seen the rise of puppy and kitten mills, where breeding parents live in small, unsanitary cages, usually outdoors, with no exercise or veterinary care. The conditions are deplorable, and many breeding parents die before they are rescued.
City councils have discovered that by banning retail sales of dogs and cats, they can curb the economic demand for this type of breeding operation and save thousands of animals and thousands of dollars.
Like many surrounding cities, Seattle has no such ban, and backyard puppy mills and crowded shelters are common on the West Coast. Luckily, Seattle is blessed with many rescue groups that tackle pet homelessness.
But one such group, Ginger’s Pet Rescue, is dedicated to specifically saving those “death-row dogs” that are about to be euthanized in shelters from Washington state to Los Angeles and rescuing dogs directly from puppy mills.
Ginger’s Pet Rescue was started by Ginger Luke, who owns the Rickshaw Chinese Restaurant in Greenwood. The rescue group receives dogs from high-kill animal shelters and negotiates the release of breeding dogs from puppy mills to end the breeding operation.
If this sounds like an intensive operation, that’s because it is. Rescue dogs must be flown in from other cities or transported via car by volunteers. Each dog is given the care they need through a partnership with Greenwood Animal Hospital, but veterinary costs are high to treat so many dogs, and donations are desperately needed.
Without a centralized shelter, all the dogs are in foster care with more than 100 volunteers working with Ginger’s Pet Rescue. Volunteers provide care, love and reassurance for the dogs, and currently more foster families are urgently needed here in Seattle.
While there are a lot of things that make Ginger’s Pet Rescue unique, a conversation with the volunteers reveals a very special group of people. Rescuing dogs from all over the West Coast takes organization and commitment, and a genuine feeling of teamwork was obvious during an interview with Ginger’s volunteers.
Brooke Stanton and her partner, Michelle Smith, are foster “mothers” providing care to two dogs through Ginger’s Rescue. Stanton was originally an adopter from the Rescue when she brought Clyde, as Australian shepherd, into her home. Stanton soon found that she had room for a few more souls in the house.
When Smith decided she was ready to adopt as well, the couple fostered several dogs before they met Bonnie. Now with Bonnie and Clyde at the helm, the family of four continues to give its time and love to help foster more dogs through the Rescue. Thanks to Brooke and Michelle’s foster care, Momo and Billy Jean, both female rat-terrier mixes, are available for adoption through Ginger’s Pet Rescue.
More volunteers needed
Dedicated foster volunteers make the difference between life and death for dogs in crowded, high-kill shelters or confined at puppy mills. And while municipal laws to mitigate both these problems may not yet have come to cities in Washington state, Ginger’s Pet Rescue is putting a dent in pet homelessness and preventing euthanasia by saving one dog at a time.
Currently, foster homes are needed for about 20 “death-row dogs” received by the Rescue every other weekend.
If you cannot foster, Ginger’s Pet Rescue also needs transporters, volunteers and people who can help fund-raise. Currently, the rescue owes around $28,000 in veterinary bills for care for special-needs dogs who are deaf, blind, have only three legs have been hit by cars or need cancer treatment.
For more information or to find dogs to adopt, check out Ginger’s Pet Rescue online at www.gingerspetrescue.org.
CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a freelance pet columnist who manages the website “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at www.sniffingouthome.org.
On Oct. 4, 2010, Richmond, BC became the first city in Canada to ban the sale of dogs in pet stores (want to know more? See media coverage here). Almost one year later, the City of Toronto, Ontario, Canada’s largest municipality, decided to ban the sale of dogs and cats from pet stores for many the same reasons as Richmond.
Richmond’s puppy sale ban was a landmark bylaw not only because it was the first in Canada, but also because it considered the extraordinary costs to a community to ignore animal welfare — both financial and ethical. Furthermore, the Richmond’s puppy sale ban was also challenged in the BC Supreme Court and ultimately upheld with Judge Savage writing that “a decision to prohibit the sale of dogs in pet stores falls within a range of acceptable outcomes that are defensible with regard to the facts and law. There is rational connection between the Bylaw and its objective.”
With this court decision in their back pockets, animal activists, tax payers and city governments are beginning to view a retail pet sale ban as a reasonable and viable option to cut out the costs of thousand of homeless dogs they see every year and end support of cruel puppy and kitten mills.
While change often starts small, the retail pet sale ban appears to be gaining momentum. Neighboring cities of Richmond, BC are starting to talk ‘a pet sale ban’ as a possible solution to their common problem.
Burnaby activist and foundation founder, Kathy Powelson, of the Paws for Hope Foundation has brought some energy to the issue for Burnaby. Based on this article in the BurnabyNow, Burnaby’s mayor is willing to investigate the option.
Port Coquitlam’s TheNow is reporting a similar trend with Councillor Brad West indicating a desire to see a similar restriction on pet sales as were established by Richmond’s councilors.
And now Saskatoon, SK and Beaconsfield, QC are talking about a retail pet sale ban as well. City council members, activists and rescue group leaders see a pet sale ban as a practical and workable solution to the tragic consequences of pet homelessness according to news articles in the The StarPhoenix and the Montreal Gazette.
Meanwhile back in Richmond, while pet stores continue to complain over loss of business, Councillor Ken Johnson is reporting that the “new law seems to be working and there are bigger issues at stake than dollars” according to an article in the Richmond News.
So, will your city be next?
A very special ‘thank you’ to Helen Savkovic for doing ALL the media research for this post. Thanks Helen!