Archive for August, 2014

AMONG THE ANIMALS: Taking Action for Animals

 The Washington delegation attending Humane Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., in June included Michael and Sandy Smith (from far left) of Kirkland, Seattle residents Steve Ann Chambers, Hilary Hager and Jennifer Hillman; Geoff Urton, of Vancouver, B.C.; Seattle columnist Christie Lagally; and HSUS Washington State director Dan Paul. Photo courtesy of Sandy Smith

The Washington delegation attending Humane Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., in June included Michael and Sandy Smith (from far left) of Kirkland, Seattle residents Steve Ann Chambers, Hilary Hager and Jennifer Hillman; Geoff Urton, of Vancouver, B.C.; Seattle columnist Christie Lagally; and HSUS Washington State director Dan Paul. Photo courtesy of Sandy Smith

by Christie Lagally

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

July 2014

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

Last month, I traveled to Washington, D.C., to attend the Taking Action for Animals (TAFA) conference. Hosted by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), this conference brings together community leaders, professionals and locally oriented volunteers from around the country who are working to help animals in every regard.

Most people I meet care deeply for animals because of a relationship with their own pets or through a broader empathy for all animals. And when animals are suffering, most of us suffer in our hearts (sometimes unknowingly) because of our natural love for animals and our aversion to cruelty. Hence, TAFA is meant to inform, inspire and empower us to be better advocates for animals.

As a young adult, no issue disturbed me more than animal testing, and I had been indoctrinated to believe that it is necessary for the good of humankind. When I eventually learned about the treatment of animals in laboratories, I learned that much of the testing is actually unnecessary and fails to benefit humans.

At TAFA, I met folks from the White Coat Waste Project (www.whitecoatwaste.com), a nonprofit organization that exposes government funding of unnecessary animal testing (including testing on beagles, household cats and monkeys.)

The project reports that our government wastes $12 billion per year on animal studies, such as forcing monkeys to smoke cigarettes or feeding them high-fat, sugary foods to create obesity. Yet, the dangers of smoking and obesity are well known and are more appropriately studied in humans who exhibit these behaviors.

Luckily, we can make conscious choices not to support animal testing. Start by switching to cruelty-free household products and cosmetics. Visit www.leapingbunny.org to find a list of companies that do not test their products on animals.

Animal cruelty at farms

It was an eye-opening moment at TAFA to learn that the vast majority of animal cruelty around the world occurs in industrialized factory farms where most of our meat and eggs are produced.

In factory farms, mother pigs are confined to gestation crates that are no larger than their bodies, laying hens are confined to battery cages with no more room than a piece of notebook paper, and baby calves, who are taken from their mothers in the dairy industry, are confined to tiny crates shortly after their birth and later killed for veal. Although billions (not millions) of animals in factory farms suffer cruelty, everyone in our community can make a huge difference to help animals by reducing our meat consumption.

Consider trying Meatless Mondays, a global movement originally started in World War I to ration supplies that continues today to help people consciously reduce their consumption of meat. Amazingly, if all Americans participated in Meatless Monday, it would save 1.4 billion animals per year from factory farms. Visit www.meatlessmonday.com for recipes and ideas for sharing Meatless Mondays in our community.

Animal activism

Another goal of TAFA was to amplify our efforts to protect animals from cruelty by talking with our senators and representatives in Washington state and in Washington, D.C.

Following TAFA, I participated in Humane Lobby Day at our nation’s capital. Along with a delegation from Washington state, I attended meetings with legislative staff of Sens. Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray and Rep. Jim McDermott. Our delegation encouraged the senators to co-sponsor a bill to keep horse slaughterhouses from operating in the United States and to prevent the sale and transport of horses to be slaughtered for human consumption. The Safeguard American Food Exports (SAFE) Act (S. 541/H.R. 1094) is already cosponsored by McDermott.

We also encouraged support of the Captive Primate Safety Act (S. 1463/H.R. 2856), which prevents monkeys, apes and nonhuman primates from being transported for exotic-pet sales. Sadly, primates in the exotic-pet industry are held captive for breeding, and their babies are taken from them and sold as pets. These wild animals pose considerable danger to humans as they grow into adults and can harbor transmittable diseases.

Finally, our delegation asked for co-sponsorship of the Humane Cosmetics Act (H.R. 4148). Passing this bill would end the use of animals for testing cosmetics. If passed, the United States could join major world powers like the European Union and India, which have already banned the use of animals for cosmetics testing. This bill is currently only in the U.S. House of Representatives, so you can contact our senators to request they introduce this bill in the Senate.

The power to act daily

All of us inadvertently encounter animal cruelty in our everyday lives with just a trip to the supermarket or even paying our taxes, which funds animal testing. Although awareness of such issues is uncomfortable at first, we can take comfort that we have the power to really change the world for animals by the actions we take daily.

Mahatma Gandhi said, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated,” which means we can be more proud to be Americans each day we make progress for animals.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and the editor of Living Humane, a news site providing articles, op-eds and podcasts on humane-conscious lifestyles at livinghumane.com.

 

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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Keeping cats safe and ‘enclosed’

Serena the cat in her veranda enclosure

Serena the cat in her veranda enclosure

by Christie Lagally

Originally published in City Living Seattle

June 2014

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

When I adopted my cat Buca from a city shelter, I signed a contract in good faith to keep her indoors. After all, the shelter had saved her life, and I promised to protect her.

After several years as an indoor-only cat, Buca decided she wanted time outside, and she made her wishes known in potent ways. However, cats pose considerable risks to themselves and other animals when allowed to roam freely, so I decided to provide Buca with an enclosed area where she could enjoy the outdoors without the risks.

Cat enclosures are highly recommended by local shelters. Otherwise, free-roaming cats can be hit by cars; attacked by wild animals, dogs or other cats; eat poisonous plants; inadvertently get caught in a neighbor’s garage; catch fleas, ear mites or ring worm; or be kidnapped and go missing without any explanation.

Hillman's cat enclosure

Hillman’s cat enclosure

Furthermore, free-roaming cats impact the environment by killing songbirds or native small mammals and defecating in neighborhood gardens.
Providing cats with outdoor access in enclosures ensures we are good cat owners and good neighbors, explains Jennifer Hillman, Western Region director for The Humane Society of the United States.

“It means being responsible for wildlife, responsible for community space and responsible for the safety of our cats,” said Hillman, whose five happy cats enjoy a spacious cat enclosure built along the side of her North Seattle home.

Hillman built the enclosure when she moved to the neighborhood a decade ago and decided to bring her once free-roaming cats indoors. As a new neighbor, she did not want her cats digging in neighborhood vegetable patches, and she had some traumatic experiences with her cats catching wild birds.

Hillman's cats enjoying the enclosure

Hillman’s cats enjoying the enclosure

Access to the outside

Hillman said her cats seemed to easily acclimate to using an enclosure, possibly because she built it just before the rainy season and the cats were not inclined to go out anyway. She explains that the secret is to provide enrichment in the enclosure, such as stumps to scratch on, platforms to jump around on and trees to climb. Hillman’s enclosure even has cat tunnels between upper and lower sections.

Cat enclosures can easily be built with a little help on the design. Ingrid Gordon of West Seattle seeks to share how feasible cat enclosures are to build onto any home. On her Facebook page for Creative Cat Enclosures, Gordon posts videos of her cat enclosures, and she gives ideas and advice on how to plan and build your own.

Additionally, Gordon and her friend Stephanie Hillman have volunteered their time to help fellow residents build enclosures for the safety of local cats. They also built Stephanie’s cat enclosure in Ballard.

“My enclosure is definitely one for limited space or barely a yard. It gives the cats access to the outdoors through my bedroom window,” describes Stephanie Hillman. “It’s small, but functional, and I have a chair out there so I can sit outside with them.”

Gordan explains her enclosure provides her peace of mind, knowing her cats will be safe while she is away. Meanwhile, her cats get time outside watching bugs and birds whenever they wish.

‘Catios’

Serena in the catio

Serena in the catio

Seattle resident Cynthia Chomos had the same concerns for her cat, Serena, a female orange tabby with a tranquil presence. When Chomos adopted Serena just more than a year ago, she saw the need to protect her with a cat enclosure — but one that Chomos and Serena could share.

Chomos is a certified Feng Shui consultant and color designer, which made her uniquely qualified to design outdoor spaces for cats and people to enjoy together. As a new addition to her consulting services, Chomos runs a small business designing and building custom cat enclosures called “catios”; hence, the name of her business, Catio Spaces (www.catiospaces.com).

Chomos works to design the enclosure to visually complement the home’s exterior, and she can specifically design and decorate the catio to meet the resident cats’ needs and likes.

At her Ballard home, Chomos has two cat enclosures: a “window-box veranda” outside her office, and a large, ”garden sanctuary” catio in her backyard that she and Serena share. Both spaces incorporate the design principles of Feng Shui to make the spaces restful yet stimulating. And since catio structures are a modification to the house itself, Chomos is a licensed and bonded contractor qualified to complete the work with her team of carpenters.

Hillman's upper enclosure

Hillman’s upper enclosure

There are many good reasons to keep cats indoors, and the options for creating an enclosure are nearly as diverse as cats themselves. A simple add-on wire structure with plenty of enclosed space, a sturdy window box or a built-in structure such as a catio can all be successful by providing the cat with plenty of enrichment, with grass, a fountain, tunnels or walkways or a sunny place to safely watch the birds.

Your own peace of mind and the joys of keeping cats healthy are worth the investment of time, creative energy and money to create a cat enclosure.

For more about keeping happy, indoor cats, visit www.humanesociety.org/animals/cats/tips/cat_happy_indoors.html.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and the editor of Living Humane, a news site providing articles, op-eds and podcasts on humane-conscious lifestyles at livinghumane.com.

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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Shelter finding home for chickens

Greyson the Rooster at SAS

Greyson the Rooster at SAS

by Christie Lagally

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

May 2014

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

Coreena the Hen graciously allowed me to spend some time getting to know her when I visited the Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS) last month. She had laid an egg in a makeshift nest in the Critter Care room at SAS, and occasionally, she sat on it with pride.

One of several hens surrendered to or rescued by SAS each month, Coreena has an unknown history; she was found wandering in a Seattle neighborhood. SAS waits three days for the chicken’s owners to claim their lost animal.

“It’s never happened,” said Killy Keefe, SAS’ Critter Care team lead volunteer. Keefe explains that, although plenty of chickens are found wondering Seattle, their owners rarely claim them.

Coreena was soon joined in her cozy kennel at SAS by two other hens. Keefe said that chickens are often surrendered because the hens are no longer producing eggs. Chickens only lay eggs consistently for two years of their lives; yet, they can live to be 10 years old. For surrendered hens, the onus is then on SAS to find the chickens new homes.

SAS spokesperson Kara Main-Hester said choosing a new home for a chicken means screening applicants carefully. Chicken adoption is a commitment to care for that animal for a lifetime, and chickens like Coreena are only adopted out to homes where they will be cared for as a pet, like a dog or a cat, and not be killed for meat.

“They need to be part of the family,” Main-Hester said.

In just a week, Sharon Miller of Whidbey Island adopted Coreen and her two hen sisters. Miller keeps hens and roosters as pets in small flocks on her farm.

“They have personalities like cats do,” Miller said of the unique nature of each of her 14 resident birds.

Miller’s vegetarian/vegan family keeps the chickens as pets, although she says it is a bonus to have a fresh eggs once in a while from her flock. Miller became a vegetarian after seeing a truck full of chickens being transported while stuffed in tiny cages. Naturally, Miller found this mistreatment incompatible with her love of these creatures.

Only hens allowed in city

Coreena the Hen at SAS

Coreena the Hen at SAS

In Seattle, residents can keep only female chickens (hens); male chickens (roosters) were banned several years ago. Unfortunately, people purchase their chickens from local hardware or animal feed stores as baby chicks or purchase the chicks online, and at that age, there is no easy way to tell if you are purchasing a hen or a rooster. Residents inadvertently find themselves violating the ban on roosters.

“It’s been noticeably increasing in the last few years,” Main-Hester said, regarding the number of surrendered roosters to SAS.

This was the case with Greyson the Rooster, a glorious, tall, red-and-brown bird who was weary of surroundings at SAS. Roosters like Greyson are re-homed at local sanctuaries, instead of being adopted out to Seattle residents.

Although SAS is happy to re-home the roosters, indiscriminant sale of baby chicks to the public leads to shelters and sanctuaries having to provide short- and long-term care for these animals whose future was apparently not considered prior to purchase.

“People need to know there are consequences,” Main-Hester said, about the sale of baby chicks in Seattle.

Currently, the sale of farm animals is not regulated in Seattle, but Main-Hester said one possible solution is to ban the sale of roosters. Since it is difficult to determine the sex of chicks, perhaps it would discourage their sale.

An ‘unjust’ relationship

Sadly, the plight of chicks in industrialized hatcheries, where the vast majority of birds like Greyson and Coreena are born, is heartbreaking and unacceptable. Since only hens lay eggs or are raised for chicken meat, approximately 50 percent of the chicks born in factory barns are killed once they are identified as male.

In a recent undercover investigation by Mercy for Animals, a chicken hatchery in Canada owned by Maple Leaf Foods was found to be committing egregious acts of cruelty against baby birds. Undercover video shows employee flinging chicks by their fragile wings, scalding chicks with hot water and drowning them and shoving chicks into machines and grinding them alive.

Unfortunately, these atrocities are not specific to this one facility and have been documented by several animal-welfare agencies around North America.

Yet, there are easy ways we can change this unjust relationship that humans currently have with chickens. First, consider reducing your consumption of eggs and poultry to help save the 9 billion chickens that are killed every year in factory farms.

If you wish to house backyard chickens, be sure to “adopt — don’t shop,” much like the mantra to avoid purchasing puppies born in puppy mills.

Finally, commit to care for your chickens for their natural lifetimes in honor of their gift — not just of eggs, but also of spritely companionship.

For information on chicken adoption, visit www.seattle.gov/animalshelter.

To learn about advocating for chickens, visit www.mercyforanimals.org.

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