AMONG THE ANIMALS: Protection orders keep pets safe from domestic violence


Honeybee, kitten found in a box. Courtesy of Rachel Bjork

by Christie Lagally

Originally published in City Living Seattle

November 2015

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

Greenwood resident Rachel Bjork got a bit of a shock recently during her nightly walk with her dog, Mika. As they passed an intersection, Mika became interested in a non-descript shoebox that had been sealed shut and placed under a laurel bush. Bjork inspected the box, but unlike Mika, she ultimately found it unremarkable because trash is often left on the corner.

box note

Honeybee, kitten found in a box. Courtesy of Rachel Bjork

A moment later as she walked away, Bjork heard a loud meow. She paused, finding it difficult to believe a kitten would be sealed in that box and left on the street corner. But sure enough, Bjork picked up the box, and the meows got even louder.

Bjork quickly brought the kitten home and found the box had a note reading, “My mommys boyfriend is mean to me. desperat for loving home L,” in what appeared to be child’s writing.

After Bjork shared this story on social media, the kitten was quickly placed in a foster home through Meow Rescue in Kirkland and named HoneyBee.

But the note from the person who left the kitten suggested a larger problem than a single homeless, abandoned kitten. The person’s note seemed to indicate that the kitten was in danger from an abusive boyfriend and, hence, the “mommy” was likely in danger herself.

“We don’t know what bad situation this person is in,” Bjork said. “They may not have access to resources.”

Rachel Bjork posting note 2

Honeybee, kitten found in a box. Courtesy of Rachel Bjork

Bjork suspects the person who left the kitten felt she had no alternative to abandoning her. So Bjork decided to leave a note in the location where the kitten was found in the hopes that the kitten’s owner might discover it.

“I figure they cared about the kitten, and I wanted to let them know she is OK,” Bjork said. “I also included a number for New Beginnings.”

(Victims of domestic violence or even those in scary relationships can call New Beginnings, a nonprofit support center providing a 24-hour hotline at 206-522-9472, free resources, transitional housing, children’s services and emergency shelter. People can also call the Washington State Coalition Against Domestic Abuse, which operates a hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE and offers financial, housing and legal assistance.)

It’s not uncommon for people to stay in domestic violence situations to protect their pets. Abusers may use the threat of violence or actual violence against an animal to control their human victims. To get to safety, victims may feel they must abandon their pets.

“This person may not have known about animal shelters,” Bjork said.


State, federal legislation

Thankfully, in 2009, the Washington state Legislature passed a pet protective order bill, House Bill 1148, entitled “Protecting animals from perpetrators of domestic violence.” The bill was passed with the help of The Washington Federation of Animal Care & Control Agencies, The Humane Society of the United States and several other groups.

The bill states, “The Legislature finds that considerable research shows a strong correlation between animal abuse, child abuse and domestic violence. The Legislature intends that perpetrators of domestic violence not be allowed to further terrorize and manipulate their victims, or the children of their victims, by using the threat of violence toward pets.”

Dan Paul, Washington state director of The Humane Society of the United States, explained, “Basically, victims of domestic violence can expand the protective orders to cover pets as well, so that they are not abused as a way to get back or further victimize the spouse or significant other.”

This law also allows the court to assign custody of the pet exclusively to the victim and inflict penalties against the abuser if s/he tries to prevent removal of the pet.

While this 2009 law applies only to Washington state, the U.S. House of Representatives is currently considering a bill to help protect victims of domestic violence and their pets nationwide. The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act (HR5267) “amends the federal criminal code to prohibit threats or acts of violence against a person’s pet under the offenses of stalking and interstate violation of a protection order.”

If enacted, this bill would also direct the U.S. Department of Agriculture to award grants for programs that support “victims of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault or stalking and their pets” and would express Congress’ encouragement for more states to include pets in protection orders, as is already the case in Washington state.

For this important bill to be enacted, your representative needs to hear from you. You can quickly contact your U.S. representative by visiting Let your legislator know that victims and their pets both need protection and assistance and this bill makes that possible.

For everyone’s safety

While domestic violence is a difficult issue to converse about, it is a good reminder of how much our society depends on our relationship with animals. Our pets provide comfort and family, especially in times of uncertainty. Hence, ensuring that all animals are protected from violence is an important step forward — not just for the safety of animals but for the most vulnerable members of our human society, as well.

Leave a comment »

AMONG THE ANIMALS: Lost and found


Lost Dog sign work well to find a missing family members.  Photo courtesy of Missing Pet Partnership

by Christie Lagally

Originally published in City Living Seattle

October 2015

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

Whether you live in a neighborhood, apartment complex or downtown, pets that have strayed from their home, have been stolen or even intentionally abandoned are commonly reported on neighborhood websites.

In my Seattle neighborhood, every day a dog is found roaming the streets or a cat reported missing. Even chickens, turtles, birds and guinea pigs are frequently reported as lost or found.

Luckily, well-intentioned neighbors try to help these animals, but it is not always clear what steps to take.

Additionally, while the Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS) offers services during business hours, you need to find other options after-hours to ensure an animal’s safety.

Toby_Zizka_Rosie with the dog licenses

Lost Dog sign work well to find a missing family members.  Photo courtesy of Missing Pet Partnership

Where to start

Whenever you find a stray animal, report it immediately. You can call SAS from 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday.

SAS also maintains an online Lost and Found Database called Reuniting Owners with Missing Pets Systems (ROMPS) found on the SAS website ( On ROMPS, anyone can quickly report the details of a found pet and upload a picture. Pet owners can search the database and contact you via email.

Conversely, if you have lost a pet, enter your pet’s information on ROMPS, and if it is found by another person, you may be reunited more quickly.

If an animal is found within city limits, you can drop off a found animal at SAS on Tuesdays through Sundays, from noon to 6 p.m. Otherwise, animal control services are available daily if an animal needs to be picked up.

Each day, SAS’ Lost Pet Hotline is updated at 6:30 p.m., and it lists the animals that are currently on stray hold at the shelter.

You can also check the adoption listings on the Shelter website to see if your animal is shown there.

SAS director Don Jordan warns that you shouldn’t depend on the description of a pet to determine if he is at the shelter because every animal could be described differently.

Jordan says the best way to identify your pet is to visit SAS during lost pet/adoption hours. If the animal isn’t claimed after three business days, it is spay/neutered, provided a microchip and put up for adoption.

If you find a stray animal after 6 p.m., you will need to house him until the next day.

Posting on other neighborhood websites like Craigslist or NextDoor or asking your mail carrier if she recognizes the dog are good ways to reunite the animal with its family.

Jordan says it is also good to walk the animal around the neighborhood to see if neighbors are familiar with him.

If you have lost a pet, you should take immediate steps to find it and not just wait till it returns. Even free-roaming cats keep regular schedules, and you will know when yours is likely lost.

Furthermore, if a cat is trapped in a garage or shed without access to food or water, its life could be in jeopardy within one day, due to the serious consequences of dehydration in cats.

This is yet another good reason that providing your cat with an outdoor enclosure (like a catio) is strongly encouraged, rather than allowing it to roam the neighborhood.

Similarly, well-maintained fencing and strong latches on your gates can prevent most dogs from getting loose.


A pet investigator searches for a cat.  Courtesy of the Missing Pet Partnership

Ensuring a found pet

If your pet is lost, consider getting some expert advice. The Puget Sound-based Missing Pet Partnership (MPP) is a nonprofit group that educates people on how to find missing pets. Its website ( provides a wealth of information on how to find an animal — whether it’s a panicked dog or a cat in unfamiliar territory.

SAS takes in 4,000 animals per year on average, and a large majority are stray animals. MPP founder Kat Albrecht explains that missing and unclaimed pets fuel the homeless pet population in our communities, so recovering lost pets is an important undertaking.

MPP also maintains a database of pet investigators for hire to help you find your pet. Albrecht explains that if you cannot search for your missing pet yourself due to work, mobility issues or other commitments, getting a pet investigator soon after your pet goes missing may be a good choice.

As a longtime advocate for recovering lost pets, Albrecht also trains pet investigators online; see for training opportunities.

To protect your pets, a microchip is highly recommended, but you must keep your information up-to-date with the microchipping company. Then, always obtain a license from SAS for your dogs and cats.

The best insurance to get your pet home is to ensure it wears a collar with its license at all times, plus tags with your name, phone number and address. Your neighbors may not be able to read a microchip, so a collar with tags is the fastest ticket home for your beloved family member.

– See more at:

Leave a comment »

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.

Leave a comment »


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.

Leave a comment »

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.

Leave a comment »

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

Leave a comment »

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

Leave a comment »