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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Lawsuits for orcas

Orcas in Puget Sound

Orcas in Puget Sounds. Courtesy of the Orca Network

by Christie Lagally

Originally published in City Living Seattle

June 2015

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

Take a ferry out of the Port of Seattle in August and you may encounter resident pods of orcas. Three pods — known as J, K and L — are revered by visitors and cherished by locals, some of whom are working to protect orcas who were taken from the ocean and confined to amusement parks.

The fight for captive orcas began after the brutal capture of seven young orcas from Penn Cove on Whidbey Island in 1970; only one of the young whales survives today. Lolita, a member of L Pod, has been held in captivity for 45 years at the Miami Seaquarium.

Twenty years ago, the campaign for Lolita’s return to Puget Sound was launched at the Daybreak Star Cultural Center in Discovery Park by whale researcher Ken Balcomb, former Gov. Mike Lowry and former Secretary of State Ralph Munro. Later, local resident Howard Garrett formed the Orca Network, an advocacy group that campaigns for Lolita’s return to her native waters.

The Orca Network calls for Lolita to be returned to Puget Sound to a sea pen, a large enclosed ocean cove in the San Juan Islands. There, she could live out her life in proximity to her family and perhaps live freely in the Salish Sea.

The Seaquarium has refused to return Lolita.

Earlier this year, a team of lawyers and activists made progress toward Lolita’s return by successfully arguing that she, as a member of Puget Sound’s endangered resident whale pods, should be listed as endangered herself. Until now, the “endangered” designation excluded whales from the population who were already in captivity at the time of the listing — a designation that included only Lolita. Yet, despite this new designation, the Seaquarium still refuses Lolita’s freedom.

So, this summer, Garrett, the Orca Network, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and a legal team from the PETA Foundation and the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) filed a lawsuit claiming that Lolita is being harmed under the statutes of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), which protects animals from harassment and cruelty.

The lawsuit claims that Lolita’s capture and confinement in a concrete tank in Miami’s hot sun, being forced to perform for food and living in isolation, with no contact with members of her own species is a clear violation of her protected status as an endangered orca. Garrett explains that the court now has to agree that these acts of cruelty are an ESA violation and are causing harassment or harm to, or wounding, Lolita.

Jared Goodman, a lawyer for the PETA Foundation, explains that the next steps for the lawsuit are a scheduling conference and discovery, in which the parties exchange information and evidence.

You can support these efforts to bring Lolita back to Puget Sound by donating to PETA ( and ALDF (

Audience deception

Like at the Seaquarium, orcas are also confined to tanks at SeaWorld. The 2013 documentary “Blackfish” and recent books by journalist David Kirby (“Death at SeaWorld”) and former SeaWorld trainer John Hargrove (“Beneath the Surface”) all reveal the dismal, abusive and cruel lives that whales suffer at SeaWorld.

Yet, despite the expert investigative reporting and firsthand accounts of cruelty, SeaWorld officials continue to promote their orca shows to an unsuspecting, high-paying audience.

One law firm sees SeaWorld’s actions as a different kind of injustice, in that it is the consumer, as well as the orcas, who have been wronged. Seattle-based law firm Hagens Berman has filed a lawsuit on behalf of SeaWorld’s customers who would never have paid to visit SeaWorld had they known of the abusive conditions for the whales.

According to the firm, the lawsuit alleges that “SeaWorld deliberately conceals the unethical treatment and conditions of its captive orcas, including psychoactive drugging, forced separation of calves from mothers, forced and unnatural breeding and cramped conditions that lead to aggression and disease.”

Hagens Berman is not a public-interest organization but specializes in class action lawsuits in which consumers have been harmed because a business failed to tell the truth about its product.

“We believe in the justness of this case,” said Shayne Stevenson, a lawyer with Hagens Berman, who shared that his firm also works human rights cases.

Stevenson said that SeaWorld has a responsibility to tell the truth about the treatment and condition of its captive orcas instead of continuing to maintain that these captive orcas are nurtured and cared for and “confidently telling the public that its orcas even enjoy their lives performing in captivity.”

The suit states, “Customers misled by SeaWorld’s false statements and material omissions, who unwittingly and regrettably paid money to SeaWorld based upon a false understanding of whale conditions and treatment caused by SeaWorld’s misinformation campaign, are entitled to have those funds returned to them.”

Consumers who have attended SeaWorld in the last four years can request to be a part of the lawsuit by contacting Hagens Berman at or by calling (206) 623-7292.

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Lucy hoppy hour asking to be picked up

Rebecca Wells with her brown bunny Lucy and brown-and-white bunny Nanna, during Hoppy Hour at K9 Fun Zone

by Christie Lagally

Originally published in City Living Seattle

August 2015

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

Some 15 rabbit owners were undeterred by the July heat and made their way to the Seattle Rabbit Agility Club meet-up known as Hoppy Hour. This event is hosted at the K9 Fun Zone (25 Nickerson St.) in Queen Anne and provides the opportunity for bunnies to socialize and try out a rabbit agility course, an event I had to see for myself.

Rebecca Wells started the club ( when she saw a need for bunnies and owners to connect, as well as to bring awareness to issues such as bunny adoption, spay/neuter and responsible care.

Rabbit agility consists of training rabbits to move through an agility course, an activity popular in Northern Europe. In Seattle, Wells and her club combine a course for agility with free-form playtime for the rabbits to jump over toys, hide in boxes, scurry through fabric tunnels and play with Wiffle balls spread around the room.

“Hoppy Hour gives rabbits a chance to be a rabbit,” Wells said.

And for such seemingly quiet creatures, most of the bunnies were gleefully running across the room to sniff friends, old and new.

A bunny social

Smokey obstacles action

Rebecca Wells with her brown bunny Lucy and brown-and-white bunny Nanna, during Hoppy Hour at K9 Fun Zone

Michael and Premi Haynes brought their rabbit, Major Leven, to Hoppy Hour. As the only bunny in their family, the Major needs time with other bunnies.
“They have personalities like both a dog and a cat,” said the couple, explaining that rabbits lick you like dogs but are independent like cats.
AJ Jain brought his two bunnies, Coco and Nana, to Hoppy Hour, and the pair quickly engaged in the fun. Jain has done some training with his rabbits, and he speaks to Nana in Hindi and Coco in English.

Nana and Coco are a bonded pair who were microchipped and fixed prior to Jain adopting them. Jain said he did a lot of research about bunnies before he adopted the two mini-Rex breed rabbits in 2013 from the Seattle Animal Shelter.

Natalie Scantlen brought a brood of bunnies, including Teton and Tatoosh, two gray bunnies enjoying a rug together at Hoppy Hour. Scantlen grew up with rabbits that were left outside in the cold.

“It could have been different,” said Scantlen, who now ensures that her bunnies live indoors with a watchful eye over their health-care needs. Along with her two other bunnies, Elwha and Ziggy, Scantlen houses her bunnies in pairs, so they always have companionship.


Bunny at Hoppy Hour

Nora Chen brought her rabbit, adeptly named Bunny, to socialize with other rabbits, as well. Two years ago, Chen and her husband literally found Bunny on the street and fell in love with her sweet nature.

“She really brings a lot of joy into our lives,” Chen said, adding that Hoppy Hour is a chance to find some other rabbit friends.

K9 Fun Zone owner Lindy Langum said she always intended for her business to be open to many species to play. Usually, Langum rents her facility for individual dogs to play out of the Seattle rain, but once a month she hosts Hoppy Hour.

Lauren Lancaster, whose bunnies BunBun and Blue were chilling during Hoppy Hour, shared her story of volunteering with an animal rescue group while in high school, where she learned it was better to adopt a pet than to buy one.

Later, she got more involved in rescue when she learned about a bunny living in a University of Washington frat house. The poor bunny had three legs and an eye infection, and Lancaster pursued the owner to surrender the animal and finally got the bunny to safety.


Rebecca Wells with her brown bunny Lucy and brown-and-white bunny Nanna, during Hoppy Hour at K9 Fun Zone


Although rabbits are the third-most-popular pet, Wells emphasizes that education about rabbit ownership is lacking, and the club helps spread the word. She said that some people think of bunnies as “livestock,” which are often neglected in hutches outdoors where they suffer from the elements and heartbreaking loneliness.

Bunnies are social creatures, live eight to 12 years and need a healthy diet of Timothy hay, plenty of room to exercise and companionship.
Also, rabbits should be spayed/neutered to prevent hormonal behaviors and a high incidence of uterine cancer in females, and veterinarians who have special training should treat them.

Lancaster and Wells also foster rabbits from Special Bunny, a Seattle-based adoption, rescue and sanctuary organization. With so many bunnies in need of adoption, fostering a rabbit makes it possible to help the overwhelming number of bunnies that need rescue, said Tamara Adlin of Special Bunny.

Adlin explains that anyone can foster a bunny if they educate themselves on rabbit care, and her group will support their effort with some supplies. Fostering is a good opportunity to see if a rabbit is a good pet for you.

Additionally, Adlin asked that we all be “bun-bassadors” by quickly learning about bunnies from the Special Bunny website ( and then speak up if we ever see a solitary bunny, a rabbit in an outdoor cage or one hidden in a basement. Even bunny-less people can easily become advocates for bunnies who are in lonely, unhealthy or unsafe situations.

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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Tips for humane living

Sandy Smith at Pasados visitsing Splash the pig

Sandy Smith at Pasado’s Sanctury visiting with Splash the pig. Courtesy of Sandy Smith.

by Christie Lagally

Originally published in City Living Seattle

July 2015

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

With a 40-plus-hours-a-week job and volunteer commitments, like many Seattleites, my time is extremely limited. For some people, trying to live more humanely and reduce our impact on animals and the environment might seem daunting. But it turns out that helping animals through our daily choices can be the easiest thing we do every day.

The emotional pain that many of us feel when we learn about homeless, neglected or abused animals can weigh on us even when we try to ignore it. Luckily, the best way to relieve this emotional stress is to start making choices that ensure we are not contributing to the problem and we are supporting the solutions. Amazingly, that is a whole lot easier than you might think, and it takes little or no time.

No animal testing

One of the easiest ways to help animals is to buy products not tested on animals, which reduces the number of animals used in cruel, unnecessary lab experiments.

“Neither the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) nor the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission requires animal testing for cosmetics or household products. There [is] sufficient existing safety data, as well as in vitro alternatives, which make animal testing for these products obsolete. Rabbits, mice and guinea pigs needn’t suffer in the name of beauty,” explained Kim Paschen, manager of the Leaping Bunny Program, a nonprofit group that certifies products as not tested on animals.

As part of your regular shopping routine, check the labels of your deodorant, shampoo, dish soap, toilet bowl cleaners and more for the Leaping Bunny label and simply choose to buy products that are cruelty-free. You can also download the “Cruelty-Free” app from iTunes or Google Play to scan a product bar code to check if Leaping Bunny has deemed the product cruelty-free, even if it doesn’t have the Leaping Bunny label.

With limited time during the week, I rarely make it to my computer to check email. But with just my phone and a little time on the bus, The Humane League (THL, has made it possible to help change the world for animals. With its One-Minute Militia program, THL sends you an email with an easy action, such as “sign this petition to end battery cages for egg laying hens.”

“The Humane League started the One-Minute Militia to give animal lovers easy ways to help animals by assisting our national campaigns team,” said Heather Bolint, director of THL’s Seattle office. “It is important that corporations hear the voices of their concerned consumers, and by organizing efforts like group Facebook posts, they can do just that.”

Sandy at Pasados

Sandy Smith at Pasado’s Sanctury visiting with Splash the pig. Courtesy of Sandy Smith.

Spend time with animals

In my leisure time, I love to spend time with animals. But we must be careful to avoid supporting animal cruelty by not patronizing roadside zoos, wildlife parks or circuses. These fly-by-night entertainment methods are horrendously inhumane.

The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) states that it is “opposed to the cruelty that is inherent in using either wild animals or livestock in unaccredited zoos, roadside menageries, petting zoos, game farms and the like, and in attractions, such as elephant rides, camel rides, and llama and pony rides that either stand alone or are attached to such venues.”

Luckily, we have some wonderful alternatives to learn about animals while supporting solutions for animal protection. Pasado’s Safe Haven, a nonprofit animal rescue and sanctuary just northeast of Seattle, is hosting a family-friendly Summer Picnic Tour on Aug. 22. Register ahead of time for the tour and bring your own picnic basket to enjoy while visiting with pigs, cows, cats, dogs, ducks, geese, chickens and sheep. Ice cream treats from The Cookie Counter, a Seattle-based vegan ice cream truck, will be available for purchase after the tour. For more information, visit

Consuming less meat

Probably the most effective opportunity we have to be part of the solution for animals is to choose our food wisely at each meal. An unsustainable 10 billion animals are killed every year for meat, egg and dairy products in the United States, and any effort made to reduce our consumption makes a huge difference for animals and the environment. Even just one month of eating vegetarian saves 17 animals and prevents 134 pounds of carbon dioxide from being released, according to

The Vegetarians of Washington, as Seattle-based group supporting non-vegetarians and vegetarians alike, has made it easy to find vegetarian options anywhere in the state with an app via Google Play or iTunes. The group also host monthly dinners at Seattle’s Mount Baker Community Club (2811 Mount Rainier Blvd. S.); visit for information.

While time will always be limited, our opportunities to make better choices to protect animals are truly unlimited. Every day presents another opportunity to make a cruelty-free purchase, to take 30 seconds for advocacy or to choose a meat-free meal.

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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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