Archive for March, 2014

AMONG THE ANIMALS: Seattle Audubon Society’s work is for the birds

Birding in Seattle.  Courtesy Seattle Audubon

Birding in Seattle. Courtesy Seattle Audubon

by Christie Lagally

Originally published in the Queen Anne & Magnolia News and City Living Seattle

February 2013

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

In the cold, dark days of winter, the chirps of neighborhood birds seem to be heard more sparingly, and it can be easy to forget Seattle is brimming with wildlife through the end of winter and into early spring. Birders know this all too well, as members of the Seattle Audubon Society (SAS) make good use of the winter months, enjoying the resident flocks right here in our own backyard.

The Seattle Audubon Society was founded in 1916. Its mission is to conserve habitat for birds and other wildlife through education, community involvement, funding and advocacy. The organization hosts birding trips for small groups and neighborhood walks open to the public, as well as classes for children from elementary age through high school.

SAS communications coordinator Jennifer Leach explained that members enjoy and appreciate birds, and they work to foster that connection to nature through conservation and bird habitat protection.

This winter, Seattle birders participated in the Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The event takes place on the last Saturday of December, and participants walk within a 15-mile radius from Downtown Seattle in search of birds. An experienced birder leads birdwatchers of all experience levels. This year, 186 participants volunteered their time; roughly 48,000 birds were identified representing 126 species in Seattle.

SAS recently announced that the population of Anna’s hummingbirds, seen in high numbers in this year’s CBC, has increased more than 700 percent in 15 years.

“It’s likely that more and more people have learned that hummingbirds can be fed through the winter, and so a lot more people leave feeders out all year now — this alone may account for the great increase,” explained ornithologist Dennis Paulson, working with SAS.

The CBC is an example of citizen science, initiatives where volunteers from our community participate in the documentation of wildlife and the natural world. The information collected is used by SAS and by policy makers to help shape future decisions on city planning and habitat conservation.

Additionally, the CBC data is provided to the National Audubon Society to be added to a nationwide database.

Other birding opportunities

If you missed the CBC, SAS hosts other citizen-science programs. The Neighborhood Bird Project is an ongoing survey in which volunteers record monthly sightings of birds in Seattle neighborhood parks. There are currently seven regularly counted parks, from Seward Park in Southeast Seattle to Carkeek Park and Magnuson Park. The goal of the Neighborhood Bird Project is to maintain an accurate understanding of species diversity in our area and to “[empower] citizens to advocate for wildlife habitat,” according to SAS.

The Puget Sound Seabird Survey (PSSS), another SAS citizen-science initiative, is a multi-month survey of shorebirds. The information collected helps inform decision makers in the event of an oil spill in Puget Sound that could greatly impact birds in our region.

Nestled in the heart of Seattle’s Wedgewood neighborhood, the SAS runs a birding supply store called The Nature Shop that sells bird-inspired gifts like jewelry and cards. The store boasts that it is “where the profits are for the birds” and, indeed, the store proceeds support initiatives at SAS.

Seattle resident Rachel Lawson serves as a volunteer at The Nature Shop, where she helps patrons find birding supplies like bird books and bird feeders. She also advises the public on how to create a bird-friendly yard by keeping cats indoors and planting native plants for the birds to feed.

In addition to her duties in The Nature Shop, Lawson serves on the SAS board of directors and leads birding field trips. She said that although she has been active in several other birding organizations, she appreciates volunteering for the SAS because they serve as an environmental advocacy organization to protect bird habitat.

Lawson also studied to achieve the title of master birder. She explained that volunteers can take master birding classes through SAS, and in turn, SAS gains a knowledgeable army of birding specialists to run classes and be field guides.

Although the SAS offers a diverse set of programs year-round, this coming May is its annual Birdathon. This affair is a fundraiser and a competitive birding event. Bird watchers challenge themselves and compete against other birders to find as many birds as possible and obtain pledges from friends, family and neighbors for each of their bird sightings.

To participate, start by finding sponsors and then sign up for one of many SAS field trips, or go birding on your own. Check the SAS website (www.seattleaudubon.org) for more information this spring.

Stellers Jay by Alistair Turner

Steller’s Jay by Alistair Turner

In my North Seattle neighborhood, local birds remind us daily that nature is still close by, even within our city limits. From Steller’s Jays that chastise my dog as they perch on our roof, to the Anna’s hummingbirds that visit my neighbor’s bird feeder, our neighborhood would not feel quite like home without the wild birds.

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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Animal rights focus of upcoming conference

circus1

Animal advocates reminding people to not visit circuses

Originally published in  City Living Seattle

January 2014

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

A little education goes a long way, particularly when you are learning about the ins and outs of animal law.

On Jan. 31, the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) is hosting its annual Animal Law Conference in Seattle. The event is offered as continuing education for lawyers whose cases may involve animal products, animal advocates or animals in general. However, the event is also open to local business owners and animal-care workers, including veterinary practitioners and nonprofit professionals, who need to learn about the interface between animals and the law.

Animal law is a wide field of practice that includes matters from veterinarian malpractice to the representation of animal activists who are contributing to the animal-rights movement. Animal-related laws have gotten considerable media attention in recent years as some states and even Congress attempt or succeed in passing “ag-gag” laws, which ban people from filming and exposing cruelty in places like slaughter houses or puppy mills.

Diverse topics

Gemma Zanowski and co-chair Daniel Lutz planned the daylong conference to include topics from pet product intellectual property issues to free speech related to animal advocacy. The conference, entitled “Hear Us Roar: How Animal Law Issues are Shaping Modern Legal Practice,” draws lawyers from around Puget Sound to provide lectures and panels.

Zanowski is opening the conference with the lecture “Animals as Products: Pro or Problem?” This topic has many permutations in our society ranging from product liability, like a sick puppy from a pet store, to co-owning animals in cases of divorce.

The co-chairs have arranged for a wide variety of perspectives to be represented at the conference. Professor John Strait of the Seattle University School of Law is scheduled to present on ethics in animal law, including common dilemmas. Judge Jeanette Dalton of the Kitsap Superior Court will discuss her “behind-the-bench” perspective on animal law issues, including animals in domestic-violence protection orders.

Of special interest to retailers of pet-related products or services and to nonprofit animal groups, Susan Friedman, an intellectual-property associate patent attorney, is prepared to lecture on intellectual property and Internet law relating to animal organizations. Freidman says that knowledge of trademark and copyright protections is important for people starting their own animal groups. In particular, the reputation of an organization’s work should be secured by protecting the organization’s brand and name.

Among other topics, Friedman will discuss ways to protect intellectual property from misuse by others and additional legal concerns stemming from the use of different forms of social media.

Animal activism

The afternoon conference proceedings conclude with a panel of animal-advocacy experts. Jenn Kaplan, a local attorney with the Gilbert H. Levy Law Firm in Seattle, and Matthew Liebman, from the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), will speak, along with Darius Fullmer.

Fullmer is an animal activist who, along with five other individuals (and a corporation), was charged and convicted for communicating via email and the Internet about the need to end animal testing at Huntington Life Sciences in New Jersey. Kaplan, Liebman and Fullmer’s panel will cover the various aspects of free speech in the context of animal activism.

Kaplan practices criminal law in Seattle but also represents animal activists who have been charged for speaking out against animal abuse. With many years of experience in this field, Kaplan hopes to help fellow lawyers understand how to defend clients charged for exposing animal cruelty and speaking out against animal oppression. She will clarify the difference between free-speech rights, as opposed to making threats within the context of activism.

Additionally, Kaplan will share the importance of understanding the perspective of animal activists so their lawyers can effectively work for their defense.

Liebman is an ALDF senior attorney and provides conference-goers with information on “ag-gag” laws. Such laws have been proposed or even passed in states where animal-welfare organizations have been successful in exposing extreme animal cruelty, such as beating and skinning live animals in slaughterhouses or raiding dog-fighting rings.

To date, only one person has been charged under an “ag-gag” law. A young woman in Utah was charged for filming a factory farm from a public road, because some “ag-gag” laws criminalize even the collection of information. Liebman will discuss the implications of such laws as contrary to our First Amendment right of free speech.

Empowering all advocates

The Animal Law Conference is open for the public to attend. While many of us may not spend our days considering the technical details of animal law and cases of free speech, these issues can hit us hard when we are confronted with a situation of animal cruelty or neglect.

Neighbors who see chained dogs in an adjacent yard or communities outraged by animal-hoarding conditions may wonder why some situations are not against the law. Often, the details of animal protection and cruelty cases are complex, but knowledge of such issues can also give us the power to act and empower us to be better advocates for animals, whether they are neighborhood dogs or animals in factory farms.

To learn more about the Animal Law Conference, visit the Washington State Bar Association website at wsba.org and search the conference title.

For more information on the Animal Legal Defense Fund, visit aldf.org.

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