Posts tagged captive elehants

AMONG THE ANIMALS: Shelter finding home for chickens

Greyson the Rooster at SAS

Greyson the Rooster at SAS

by Christie Lagally

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

May 2014

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Only hens allowed in city

Coreena the Hen at SAS

Coreena the Hen at SAS

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

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

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

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

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

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

An ‘unjust’ relationship

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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AMONG THE ANIMALS: WPZ Elephant Task Force considers sanctuaries

Chai the elephant, in her section of the barn stall at the Woodland Park Zoo. Photo courtesy of the Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants

Chai the elephant, in her section of the barn stall at the Woodland Park Zoo. Photo courtesy of the Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants

By Christie Lagally

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

Published June 25, 2013 in City Living Seattle

Many Seattleites may remember the two-part feature article last December by Seattle Times reporter Michael Berens in which he investigated a failed breeding program and intolerable conditions for elephants (Watoto, Bamboo and Chai) at the Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ) and other zoos. In subsequent coverage, The Seattle Times editorial board wrote, “Chai was subsequently the victim — not too strong a word — of 112 attempts to artificially inseminate her” and “Woodland Park Zoo should get out of the elephant-display business. Send Watoto, Bamboo and Chai to one of the handful of sanctuaries that exist. Let them live out their lives with room to move at will across truly open spaces.”

Councilwomen Sally Bagshaw address the Elephant Task Force on May 29th, 2013 at the Seattle Central Library

Councilwomen Sally Bagshaw address the Elephant Task Force on May 29th, 2013 at the Seattle Central Library

According to Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, this article prompted an enormous number of e-mails to her office from folks concerned about the elephants and calls to send them to a sanctuary. Since then, the Zoo board announced a task force to look at the issue. Its second meeting, held this May, covered the topic of sanctuaries, including issues of facility space and breeding policy.

Elephant education

The task force began by hearing from Kristin Vehrs of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the accrediting body for zoos. Vehrs emphasized the AZA requires zoos to have three or more elephants to meet the animals’ social needs. I later learned that at least 20 zoos, including Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, have only two or even one lonely elephant, yet maintain their AZA accreditation.

Closer to the topic of sanctuaries, Jackie Bennett of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries introduced its organization as the accrediting body for sanctuaries. The Global Federation works with animal sanctuaries worldwide. Such elephant sanctuaries in the United States are located in warmer, drier climates and have wide-open spaces measured in the hundreds to thousands of acres, in contrast to the divided one acre available to Watoto, Bamboo and Chai.

In a sanctuary, elephants are free-roaming and live in social groups of their choosing. Yet, in Seattle, Bamboo and Watoto are incompatible and are managed so one of them is always kept solitary, which is considered cruel for a female elephant. The WPZ elephants are kept in barn stalls 16 to 17 hours a day for more than half of the year due to our climate.

The task force later heard from representatives of two elephant facilities — the National Elephant Center (NEC) and Riddle Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary (REWS) — about their facilities in Florida and Arkansas, respectively. Nicole Meyer of In Defense of Animals (IDA) clarified for the task force that “true sanctuaries” are those that do not participate in breeding elephants so as not to place more animals into captivity. The Global Federation only accredits sanctuaries that do not breed animals for captivity.

Both NEC and REWS either support zoo-breeding programs or actively pursue breeding of elephants in captivity. In contrast, the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee do not condone captive breeding and allow the animals to live freely in the sanctuary without being managed with bull hooks, according to Meyer.

PAWS representatives were invited to speak but declined in a letter explaining its elephant sanctuary program. The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee was not asked to present to the task force, according to communications manager Angela Spivey, who confirmed that she was prepared to speak that evening but was not included on the agenda.

This was unfortunate because, in considering the future of Watoto, Bamboo and Chai, it is vital to present the perspective of a sanctuary that does not breed elephants. It is important to ensure that Chai is never subjected to a breeding program again and that she lives in a place where no other elephants experience her past trauma.

Changing mindsets

The question of whether the elephants should be relocated to a sanctuary is quite simply, yes.

Animals evoke deep emotions in us, and many people may feel it would be a loss if Watoto, Bamboo and Chai went to live in a sanctuary. But Berens’ article provided us with knowledge of animal suffering that our community cannot ignore.

I am hopeful that this task force will help us, as a community, to change the mindset that only health exams by zoo veterinarians or compliance with AZA standards can fully inform us about the well-being of elephants.

Many North American zoos are closing their elephant exhibits based on lack of space and research showing that elephants are deeply emotional, self-aware and social beings.

Members of the task force have a wonderful opportunity to help transform the WPZ programs that confine elephants into humane education programs based on the knowledge we have gained that ultimately helped us to see that elephants need to be wild and free.

For more information on the Woodland Park Zoo Elephant Task Force, visit elephanttaskforce.org. For local advocacy information, visit Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants at freewpzelephants.com.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY writes a blog called “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at http://www.sniffingouthome.org and is host of Living Humane on KKNW 1150 AM (livinghumane.com).

Also see David Hancock’s article.

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