Archive for August, 2015

AMONG THE ANIMALS: Caring for older chickens

Chickens Barbara and Amber

Chickens Barbara and Amber

by Christie Lagally

Originally published in City Living Seattle

June 2015

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

I cringed when I saw the post on my neighborhood website saying, “Free healthy chickens for pets or slaughter.” I quickly posted that it was dangerous to hand off your backyard chickens to the first person willing to hack them up. This situation was a cruelty case in the making, and I offered to help find the animals’ new home.

The owner agreed immediately, telling me privately that what she really wanted was for her chickens, Rosie and Betty, to go into “retirement” — a euphemism for handing off their care to an already-overburdened rescue group.

While several volunteers spent the next week searching for a home for Betty and Rosie, I reflected on the prevalence of chickens cast off from the backyard chicken movement. In November, a neighbor reported an old chicken dumped at an abandoned house, and when I arrived to pick up the chicken, she was skinny, dehydrated and terrified.

Again, last month, a neighbor posted an announcement entitled “Fowl Play,” with a request for help catching a little chicken dumped near her yard after looking for the owner for days.

The complexities of keeping chickens responsibly is more than some people are willing to learn about or manage for the 12-year lifespan of a chicken. The Seattle Animal Shelter, local farm animal sanctuaries and animal advocates report that backyard chickens are being abandoned or surrendered at an unsustainable rate.


Learning responsibility

Chicken Rosie

Chicken Rosie

Seattle Tilth, an organization that promotes local agriculture, offers classes on keeping chickens.

“In our class, we discuss that, after two to four years, chickens lay less frequently or stop laying completely. At that point, the owners have choices: They can keep the chicken as a pet, which some people do, becoming attached to their ‘girls,’” said Seattle Tilth garden program director Sharon Siehl, adding that Seattle limits flock sizes to eight chickens.

“Another option is to slaughter the chicken and prepare it for a meal,” Siehl explained.

But for those who envision a perfect death for their egg-laying friends, Seattle Tilth refers folks to other organizations to teach this gruesome task. “We do not support chicken owners taking their chickens to the Seattle Animal Shelter as a way of releasing responsibility to others for the chickens’ end of life,” Siehl said.

Yet, Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS) executive director Don Jordan said the agency gets about 20 chickens per year from people who surrender their animals.

“You need to be responsible for your chickens,” said Jordan, who explained that the animals are difficult to place. SAS tries to send chickens to farm animal sanctuaries, but spaces are extremely limited.

“We are full to the rafters,” said Karen Eliasen, who runs BaaHaus Animal Rescue Group on Vashon Island with her partner, Glenda Pearson. Together, the women are caring for 30 hens and 12 roosters on their farm of 175 rescued farm animals. Eliasen said BaaHaus gets about one call per week from people looking for a “retirement” home for their chickens.

“If we took in every hen or rooster, we’d be in the thousands by now,” Eliasen said.

When the sanctuary does have room, Eliasen said it only considers requests from people who aren’t going to perpetuate the problem. Surrendering non-laying hens, only to get new ones, is unsustainable, and rescue groups like BaaHaus bear the burden.

For animal advocates like Lake City resident Killy Keefe, raising chickens for eggs only to slaughter them at age 3 is illogical and inhumane. “I wouldn’t slaughter a friend, so I wouldn’t do that to an animal either,” Keefe said, adding that before you bring chickens home, you need to be prepared to let them live out their lives with you in safety. “There is no magical farm sanctuary to take your failed backyard chicken projects,” Keefe emphasized.


No ‘backyard paradise’

Chicken Red at the Vet

Chicken Red at the Vet

Local resident and chicken owner Jane Moisey explained that people imagine a backyard chicken paradise seen in Sunset Magazine, but the reality is messier and time-consuming. At all ages, chickens require safe housing, careful feeding and veterinary care or even surgery.

Moisey bought chicks once from a feed store, but now all her animals, including her chickens, are rescues. She said she wishes that the feed stores that sell chicks would educate people on end-of-life issues for their chickens. Now, Moisey rescues hens through her avian veterinarian in Seattle, and she enjoys the company and calming nature of her hens.

For Seattleites whose chickens no longer lay eggs (and those of us without chickens), baking and cooking without eggs is easily accomplished using ground flax seeds, applesauce, tapioca or bananas in place of eggs in recipes. Egg-free cooking is a viable alternative for those who truly commit to caring for their non-laying chickens as a valued family member.

Keefe explained, “Chickens have wonderful personalities, and each one is different. They can really brighten your day and be a good friend for life.”

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and the editor of Living Humane, a news site about humane-conscious lifestyles at To comment on this column, write to


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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Seattle politics on animal welfare

Bamboo in transport crate at WPZ (Photo by Jeanne Barrett)

Bamboo in transport crate at WPZ (Photo by Jeanne Barrett)

by Christie Lagally

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

May 2015

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

The Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ) has spent a century justifying its existence as an educational institution for our community, but the evidence of that purpose has never been so barren.

With the ill-conceived decision to move elephants Chai and Bamboo to another zoo, WPZ leaders damaged an already-crumbling societal contract with Seattleites to serve the public interest with our $7 million per year of taxpayer funds and free use of the city-owned zoo facilities.

The history of advocacy against the confinement of elephants at WPZ has been punctuated by the saddest milestones: from baby elephant Hansa’s death from a disease that WPZ knew she could contract (according to the minutes of a May 1998 meeting of the zoo’s Elephant Management Committee), to the December 2012 Seattle Times’ investigation of the abusive lives of zoo elephants. The collapse of elephant Watoto at WPZ from ailments associated with captivity (Crosscut, Oct. 2, 2014) and a subsequent USDA inspection that declared the inadequacy of the elephant exhibit in 2014 (Seattle P-I, Nov. 3, 2104) reinforced the problem.

Then, when WPZ refused to allow the public and media to attend board meetings last December, it only called into question the wisdom of a public-private partnership. By 2015, WPZ’s unrelenting decision to send Chai and Bamboo to another zoo, instead of a sanctuary, was the status quo.

WPZ disregarded the call for sanctuary from the majority of Seattle voters and City Councilmembers; the mayor; many City Council candidates; powerful media voices, including the Seattle Times editorial board; and renowned international elephant experts, including former WPZ director David Hancocks.

“I don’t think that the zoo recognizes the damage they have done,” Hancocks said, regarding the loss of public trust that WPZ has caused with its decisions. “This will color people’s view of the zoo.

“In my view, zoos are outmoded and have not changed since the 1900s,” Hancocks explained, adding we have an opportunity to make significant changes to create a zoo that reflects our values. For a century, conventional zoos have claimed to teach respect for animals and the natural world, yet our treatment of animals in zoos is inadequate at best and abysmal at worst.

“The need for institutions, like zoos, is more desperate than ever,” Hancocks said. He added that we need an institution that intellectually stimulates us with hard questions about ecology, geology and forestry without the confinement of animals.


Political willpower

There appears to be an institutionalized belief that our zoo takes animal welfare seriously when recent decisions are the antithesis. Even our mayor and City Councilmembers (except Councilmembers Kshama Sawant and Mike O’Brien, who fought for sanctuary) would not challenge WPZ leaders. Now that WPZ has spent decades denying the harm of captivity, we have no assurance that similarly poor decisions will not be made again, perhaps with another large mammal where the elephants once lived.

However, Seattleites can change the future of animal welfare policy through our elections. This year, the Seattle Parks District — which taxes Seattle residents to fund our parks, zoo and aquarium — was established, and the City Council now oversees how funds are used. With the new City Council district elections in November, we have an opportunity to reform how our City Council oversees the zoo.

Seattle resident Beverly Marcus is finding out where council candidates stand on the issues. She distributed a candidate survey in March from the Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, and with 38 percent of candidates responding, all favored sanctuary for the elephants and most supported a council resolution for sanctuary.

Tony Provine, City Council candidate for Seattle’s 4th District, said that we should hold the zoo accountable and usher in better transparency: “[WPZ] didn’t include the taxpayers in this decision” to transferring the elephants. He added that we deserve to have oversight and some say in how our funds and city property are used by the zoo.

However, elections for social change cost money, and people who will work for the welfare of people and animals need support. Hence, local activist Sandy Smith founded the Humane Voters of Washington, a political action committee aimed at supporting candidates and initiatives that implement humane animal welfare policies.

“You can rescue animals 24/7, but unless laws are changed, you will have to rescue again the next week,” Smith said, regarding the need for a political action committee that works on behalf of animal issues. Smith explained that people can give just a few dollars a month, and that money is amplified to help animals through the election of candidates who will implement sound animal welfare policies such as those that govern WPZ.

I can imagine a future when our local zoo is the source of education about the ethical treatment of all animals, instead of the antique model of animal confinement it is today. As Provine and Hancocks envision, a progressive zoo, overseen by a thoughtful City Council, could be the model of civic transparency that educates our community about the practical ways to foster an ecologically sound, humane connection to our environment and animals.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and editor of Living Humane (, a news site on humane-conscious lifestyles. To comment on this column, write to

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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Catio Tour Seattle to showcase ‘outdoor rooms’ for cats

Catio at Cynthia Chromos' home

Catio at Cynthia Chromos’ home

by Christie Lagally

Originally published in City Living Seattle

April 2015

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

As a cat lover, I understand my responsibility to ensure my cat, Buca, is well-fed, has a clean litter box and access to my lap for snuggle time. Even if I forget, Buca will remind me and occasionally thank me with a loud purr. But Buca is unaware of my similar efforts to keep her safe from being hit by a car or attacked by a wild animal, as well as my efforts to protect local wildlife from cats.

While Buca is mostly an indoor cat, she has access to the outdoors in an enclosed area. Outdoor cat enclosures, also known as catios, are quickly becoming a popular solution to ensure your cats’ safety from traffic accidents, kidnapping or wildlife conflicts, while providing cats with all the enrichment of the outdoors.

So, this spring, Seattle-area residents (and their cats) are sharing their success implementing cat enclosures by opening their homes for the Catio Tour Seattle event on May 16, sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Catio Spaces and PAWS.


Oliver's Catio

Oliver’s Catio

Outdoor rooms

This self-guided tour of homes provides an opportunity to see the variety of ways that a catio can be added to nearly any house, yard, window, porch or deck to provide, not just a safe enclosure, but also a preferred location for your cat to enjoy the outdoors. Catios featured on the tour include escape-proof wire mesh walls, tunnels and a variety of sizes and creative designs.

Catio Spaces owner Cynthia Chomos is one of the organizers of the tour. She will feature several types of catios at her Ballard home, including a window-box veranda and a ground-level garden sanctuary catio.

“Some of the catios on tour are decorated to look like outdoor rooms, including human seating, decorative mats, plants, a water fountain,” Chomos said. “Adding to the outdoor enrichment experience, cedar shelves and natural tree branches allow vertical and horizontal movement for exercise, and corner perches provide space for bird-watching, lounging and cat naps in the sun.”

Seahawks catio

Seahawks catio

Chomos will also have a Seahawks-themed catio (which she built for a client) temporarily at her home for the tour. She explains that this is an example of how catios can be built in panels to be easily relocated if you move.

Seattle resident Kathyryn Oliver will show her cat enclosure during the tour. Her catio is built with access through a window and includes several high perches, lush grass and plenty of light for sunbathing for her cats and even her pit-bull mix, Reagan, who also enjoys the enclosure. Oliver says that, when she moved to Seattle, she felt she couldn’t provide her cats with safe access to the outdoors, and building a cat enclosure was a perfect solution.

“I wish I’d built it sooner,” Oliver said.

During the tour, Oliver is taking an additional step to help cats. As a member of the Seattle Animal Shelter Foundation Bboard, Oliver has arranged to have several adoptable cats from the Seattle Animal Shelter enjoying her catio for the day. When tourists visit Oliver’s Magnolia home, they will also meet some adoptable cats.


Jennifer Hillman's catio

Jennifer Hillman’s catio

Protecting all animals

Cat enclosures are an excellent example of how a simple modification to your home can provide a humane solution to reduce the 1 billion to 4 billion birds killed by free-roaming cats each year, according to a 2013 article in Nature Communications, and the countless number of cats that are hit by cars, poisoned, inadvertently caught in garages and die, or are attacked by wildlife, dogs or other cats. While it takes some time, money and forethought, providing a cat enclosure benefits the entire community, explained Jennifer Hillman, director of strategic advocacy and campaigns for HSUS.

“We hope this tour will give people ideas about how easy it is to add a cat enclosure and how it can be a great addition to their home,” said Hillman, whose multi-level cat enclosure in Northgate will also be featured in the tour.

The Catio Tour Seattle event will take place May 16, from noon to 4 p.m. To register, visit and click on “Tour Info”; a $5 donation to PAWS is suggested at registration. A few days before the tour, you will receive a map of homes to visit during the tour.

Catio resources — including tips, DIY (do-it-yourself) plans, cat-enclosure companies and kits — can also be found on the website.

Don’t forget to take your camera to capture features of catios that you want to incorporate into your own cat enclosure.

 CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and the editor of Living Humane (, a news site about humane-conscious lifestyles. To comment on this column, write to


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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Clinic helping to curb animal overpopulation

Dr. Zoulas and her staff at the SAS Spay/Neuter Clinic

Dr. Zoulas and her staff at the SAS Spay/Neuter Clinic

by Christie Lagally

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

March 2015

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

On Feb. 24, Seattle Mayor Ed Murray proclaimed World Spay Day to be honored in our city with an homage to the Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS) Spay & Neuter Clinic: “WHEREAS, in 1982, 18,401 live animals were taken in to the shelter and 8,320 of those animals were euthanized. Five years later, with its low-cost spay/neuter clinic in place, Seattle Animal Shelter intakes were reduced by 33 percent and the euthanasia rate reduced by 50 percent. Last year, live animal intakes to the shelter dropped to 3,344, with the number of euthanasias reduced to 245.”

While there are several contributing factors to pet homelessness and overpopulation, reducing the number of companion animals born in our city and the surrounding area is a powerful, community-based solution that is clearly effective on a grand scale.


Seattle Animal Shelter

Seattle Animal Shelter

A community effort

In 1982, veterinarian Dr. Mary Ellen Zoulas was there to open the Seattle Animal Shelter’s Spay & Neuter Clinic (2061 15th Ave. W.), and she continues her dedication to that role today with the help of a small, dedicated staff.

As an open-intake shelter, SAS houses every Seattle animal that comes to its doors. Hence, offering community-wide spay and neuter surgeries to everyone’s animals works to reduce shelter animal intakes overall.

Zoulas said that when she first started at the clinic, about 90 percent of her patients were free-roaming cats. Today, of the clinic’s approximately 2,500 patients per year, about half are dogs, with the remainder rabbits and cats. Furthermore, those thousands of surgeries per year are carefully orchestrated by Zoulas’ efficient team of three veterinary technicians and a very busy clinic receptionist.

Curbing the homeless pet-rabbit population is vitally important. The clinic started offering spay and neuter services for rabbits in 2013. Zoulas’ team runs one of the only clinics that offers rabbit spay/neuter, since these creatures can be sensitive patients with special care needs.

Zoulas said the the clinic has a good relationship with the Rabbit Meadows Sanctuary & Adoption Center in Kenmore, Wash., to encourage people to spay or neuter their rabbits. The group also assists rabbit owners by loaning carriers to bring their rabbits to the clinic for surgery. Zoulas and her team spays or neuters about three rabbits a day.

In an effort to combat pet homelessness wherever it starts, the clinic will spay and neuter pets owned by people inside or outside Seattle city limits; about half of its patients are owned pets brought in from the community.

SAS Clinic Operating Room

SAS Clinic Operating Room

While a standard price is listed for these services, the final cost depends on the owner’s ability to pay. “We ask people to pay what they can,” Zoulas said, adding that income verification is not required.

Hence, funding the Spay & Neuter clinic takes a community effort. Along with the clinic opening in the 1980s, the City of Seattle also set up the Pet Population Control Fund (, which collects donations to supplement the cost of free or low-cost spay/neuter surgeries and the surgeries of shelter pets.

“Due to a lack of critical resources and public awareness, Humane Societies and animal shelters across the nation have no choice but to humanely euthanize millions of cats, dogs, rabbits and other animals each year, many of whom are healthy and adoptable,” SAS director Don Jordan said.


Other ways to help

There are other ways to help, as well. Once we have spayed or neutered our own pets, we can easily be advocates to help our neighbors, friends, co-workers and associates do the same by talking to others about the benefits to spay/neuter and how it helps reduce euthanasia in our community.

Zoulas said that people can even volunteer to transport animals to and from the Spay & Neuter clinic for surgery. Since the spay and neuter of even one cat, dog or rabbit can prevent the birth of between two to 10 animals, even one volunteer trip to the Spay & Neuter clinic makes a profound difference.

The SAS Spay & Neuter Clinic has shown how effective a coordinated effort can be when our community of animal lovers continues to donate, to volunteer for and to support a high-quality, low-cost spay and neuter program.

For more information on Rabbit Meadows, visit

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and the editor of Living Humane ( To comment on this column, write to

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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Senators speak up for animals

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles and Precious the cat

Senator Kohl-Welles

by Christie Lagally

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

February 2015

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

With our Washington legislative session underway in Olympia, several Seattle-based senators, as well as animal advocates, are working hard to improve laws that protect animals.

Recently, Sen. Joe Fain of the 47th Legislative District (covering south King County) introduced Senate Bill (SB) 5501, which is intended to strengthen current laws to protect animals and to ensure that animal suffering can be addressed by law enforcement and our courts. The bill must pass the Washington state Senate and House and be signed by the governor before it can take effect. This requires the support of additional legislators and the support of their constituents like us.


Bipartisan support

Year-round, animal welfare agencies remind us not to leave our pets in cars because of the risk of death from overheating. SB 5501 would make it a crime “to leave or confine any animal unattended in a motor vehicle or enclosed space if the animal could be harmed or killed by exposure to excessive heat, cold, lack of ventilation or lack of necessary water.”

This statute also allows law enforcement or an animal control officer to free a distressed animal from a confined space. Currently, individual municipal laws in Washington dictate whether authorities can act if an animal is in danger. If enacted, SB 5501 would allow authorities statewide to enter a car (or a confined space) to rescue an animal without liability for necessary damage done to the car or structure.

Fain explains that California already has a similar law to allow authorities to rescue animals from vehicles, but Washington state does not. He adds that SB 5501 “clarifies the rights of first-responders,” who may need to act immediately to protect an animal’s life.

SB 5501 also broadens our laws against animal fighting in Washington, which currently states that staging fights between dogs or male chickens is a felony. This bill broadens the type of animals that could possibly be involved in fighting.

“The intent of this change to the law is to criminalize organized fights between any animals, not just between male chickens (cockfighting) and between dogs,” explained Rick Hall of the Washington Alliance for Humane Legislation, an advocacy group helping to pass SB 5501.

“Fights between dogs and wildlife have been staged in some areas of the country, such as so-called hog-dog fights,” Hall added. “This is a loophole in the law that needs to be addressed.”

Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles, who represents the 36th District of Ballard, Fremont, Magnolia and Queen Anne, explained that she co-sponsored SB 5501 because she believes it is important to strengthen the laws against animal fights and to ensure that our law specifically prohibits bringing a minor to a fight; SB 5501 changes the law to make it a separate offense to bring a minor to an animal fight.

When animal cruelty does occur, it is important that courts can convict offenders, and SB 5501 aims to more clearly define the types of cruelty that are subject to prosecution. Currently, a person can be convicted of felony animal cruelty if he or she injures or kills an animal causing undue suffering.

However, a sad case of a dog killing in 2013, in which a man strapped explosives to his dog and detonated them, killing the dog instantly, created concerns about the law’s application to this case. The concern was that it may be difficult to prosecute because it was difficult to show that the dog suffered when it died so quickly. SB 5501 helps to better define this type of cruelty by including the statement that the perpetrator exhibited an “extreme indifference to life” — a statement taken from homicide laws.

Senator Chase and her dogs, daughter (Carin Chase), and her grandson (Chase Simerka)

Senator Chase and her family

Sen. Maralyn Chase, who represents the 32nd District of North Seattle (Broadview and Bitter Lake), has also co-sponsored SB 5501. She has a long history of working to protect animals, including her own rescue dogs, Ranger and Lucky.

She explained that she frequently works across the aisle on many of the bills she sponsors but adds that animal-related bills are often supported by both parties.

“People love animals,” Chase said. “We get a huge response when we have an animal-related bill.”

Sen. David Frockt of the 46th District (Lake City, Meadowbrook and Wedgwood) has also co-sponsored SB 5501.


Voice your support

It is empowering to see how our local senators are speaking up for animals. Before the legislative session ends in late April, we should let our senators and state representatives know that we support animal protection as well. You can email your state legislators or visit them in person by signing up for Humane Lobby Day on Feb. 24, a one-day event sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States, and join other advocates to lobby for animal-related bills.

Finally, for those of us with legislators who share our ethos to actively protect animals, it is also important to contact them and thank them for their service.

To attend Humane Lobby Day, visit

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and the editor of Living Humane ( To comment on this column, write to

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