Posts tagged Seattle

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 livinghumane.com. To comment on this column, write to CityLivingEditor@nwlink.com.

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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 (livinghumane.com), a news site on humane-conscious lifestyles. To comment on this column, write to CityLivingEditor@nwlink.com.

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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 www.catiotourseattle.com 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 (livinghumane.com), a news site about humane-conscious lifestyles. To comment on this column, write to CityLivingEditor@nwlink.com.

 

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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Seattle Audubon Society’s work is for the birds

Birding in Seattle.  Courtesy Seattle Audubon

Birding in Seattle. Courtesy Seattle Audubon

by Christie Lagally

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

February 2013

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

In the cold, dark days of winter, the chirps of neighborhood birds seem to be heard more sparingly, and it can be easy to forget Seattle is brimming with wildlife through the end of winter and into early spring. Birders know this all too well, as members of the Seattle Audubon Society (SAS) make good use of the winter months, enjoying the resident flocks right here in our own backyard.

The Seattle Audubon Society was founded in 1916. Its mission is to conserve habitat for birds and other wildlife through education, community involvement, funding and advocacy. The organization hosts birding trips for small groups and neighborhood walks open to the public, as well as classes for children from elementary age through high school.

SAS communications coordinator Jennifer Leach explained that members enjoy and appreciate birds, and they work to foster that connection to nature through conservation and bird habitat protection.

This winter, Seattle birders participated in the Christmas Bird Count (CBC). The event takes place on the last Saturday of December, and participants walk within a 15-mile radius from Downtown Seattle in search of birds. An experienced birder leads birdwatchers of all experience levels. This year, 186 participants volunteered their time; roughly 48,000 birds were identified representing 126 species in Seattle.

SAS recently announced that the population of Anna’s hummingbirds, seen in high numbers in this year’s CBC, has increased more than 700 percent in 15 years.

“It’s likely that more and more people have learned that hummingbirds can be fed through the winter, and so a lot more people leave feeders out all year now — this alone may account for the great increase,” explained ornithologist Dennis Paulson, working with SAS.

The CBC is an example of citizen science, initiatives where volunteers from our community participate in the documentation of wildlife and the natural world. The information collected is used by SAS and by policy makers to help shape future decisions on city planning and habitat conservation.

Additionally, the CBC data is provided to the National Audubon Society to be added to a nationwide database.

Other birding opportunities

If you missed the CBC, SAS hosts other citizen-science programs. The Neighborhood Bird Project is an ongoing survey in which volunteers record monthly sightings of birds in Seattle neighborhood parks. There are currently seven regularly counted parks, from Seward Park in Southeast Seattle to Carkeek Park and Magnuson Park. The goal of the Neighborhood Bird Project is to maintain an accurate understanding of species diversity in our area and to “[empower] citizens to advocate for wildlife habitat,” according to SAS.

The Puget Sound Seabird Survey (PSSS), another SAS citizen-science initiative, is a multi-month survey of shorebirds. The information collected helps inform decision makers in the event of an oil spill in Puget Sound that could greatly impact birds in our region.

Nestled in the heart of Seattle’s Wedgewood neighborhood, the SAS runs a birding supply store called The Nature Shop that sells bird-inspired gifts like jewelry and cards. The store boasts that it is “where the profits are for the birds” and, indeed, the store proceeds support initiatives at SAS.

Seattle resident Rachel Lawson serves as a volunteer at The Nature Shop, where she helps patrons find birding supplies like bird books and bird feeders. She also advises the public on how to create a bird-friendly yard by keeping cats indoors and planting native plants for the birds to feed.

In addition to her duties in The Nature Shop, Lawson serves on the SAS board of directors and leads birding field trips. She said that although she has been active in several other birding organizations, she appreciates volunteering for the SAS because they serve as an environmental advocacy organization to protect bird habitat.

Lawson also studied to achieve the title of master birder. She explained that volunteers can take master birding classes through SAS, and in turn, SAS gains a knowledgeable army of birding specialists to run classes and be field guides.

Although the SAS offers a diverse set of programs year-round, this coming May is its annual Birdathon. This affair is a fundraiser and a competitive birding event. Bird watchers challenge themselves and compete against other birders to find as many birds as possible and obtain pledges from friends, family and neighbors for each of their bird sightings.

To participate, start by finding sponsors and then sign up for one of many SAS field trips, or go birding on your own. Check the SAS website (www.seattleaudubon.org) for more information this spring.

Stellers Jay by Alistair Turner

Steller’s Jay by Alistair Turner

In my North Seattle neighborhood, local birds remind us daily that nature is still close by, even within our city limits. From Steller’s Jays that chastise my dog as they perch on our roof, to the Anna’s hummingbirds that visit my neighbor’s bird feeder, our neighborhood would not feel quite like home without the wild birds.

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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Animal rights focus of upcoming conference

circus1

Animal advocates reminding people to not visit circuses

Originally published in  City Living Seattle

January 2014

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

A little education goes a long way, particularly when you are learning about the ins and outs of animal law.

On Jan. 31, the Washington State Bar Association (WSBA) is hosting its annual Animal Law Conference in Seattle. The event is offered as continuing education for lawyers whose cases may involve animal products, animal advocates or animals in general. However, the event is also open to local business owners and animal-care workers, including veterinary practitioners and nonprofit professionals, who need to learn about the interface between animals and the law.

Animal law is a wide field of practice that includes matters from veterinarian malpractice to the representation of animal activists who are contributing to the animal-rights movement. Animal-related laws have gotten considerable media attention in recent years as some states and even Congress attempt or succeed in passing “ag-gag” laws, which ban people from filming and exposing cruelty in places like slaughter houses or puppy mills.

Diverse topics

Gemma Zanowski and co-chair Daniel Lutz planned the daylong conference to include topics from pet product intellectual property issues to free speech related to animal advocacy. The conference, entitled “Hear Us Roar: How Animal Law Issues are Shaping Modern Legal Practice,” draws lawyers from around Puget Sound to provide lectures and panels.

Zanowski is opening the conference with the lecture “Animals as Products: Pro or Problem?” This topic has many permutations in our society ranging from product liability, like a sick puppy from a pet store, to co-owning animals in cases of divorce.

The co-chairs have arranged for a wide variety of perspectives to be represented at the conference. Professor John Strait of the Seattle University School of Law is scheduled to present on ethics in animal law, including common dilemmas. Judge Jeanette Dalton of the Kitsap Superior Court will discuss her “behind-the-bench” perspective on animal law issues, including animals in domestic-violence protection orders.

Of special interest to retailers of pet-related products or services and to nonprofit animal groups, Susan Friedman, an intellectual-property associate patent attorney, is prepared to lecture on intellectual property and Internet law relating to animal organizations. Freidman says that knowledge of trademark and copyright protections is important for people starting their own animal groups. In particular, the reputation of an organization’s work should be secured by protecting the organization’s brand and name.

Among other topics, Friedman will discuss ways to protect intellectual property from misuse by others and additional legal concerns stemming from the use of different forms of social media.

Animal activism

The afternoon conference proceedings conclude with a panel of animal-advocacy experts. Jenn Kaplan, a local attorney with the Gilbert H. Levy Law Firm in Seattle, and Matthew Liebman, from the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), will speak, along with Darius Fullmer.

Fullmer is an animal activist who, along with five other individuals (and a corporation), was charged and convicted for communicating via email and the Internet about the need to end animal testing at Huntington Life Sciences in New Jersey. Kaplan, Liebman and Fullmer’s panel will cover the various aspects of free speech in the context of animal activism.

Kaplan practices criminal law in Seattle but also represents animal activists who have been charged for speaking out against animal abuse. With many years of experience in this field, Kaplan hopes to help fellow lawyers understand how to defend clients charged for exposing animal cruelty and speaking out against animal oppression. She will clarify the difference between free-speech rights, as opposed to making threats within the context of activism.

Additionally, Kaplan will share the importance of understanding the perspective of animal activists so their lawyers can effectively work for their defense.

Liebman is an ALDF senior attorney and provides conference-goers with information on “ag-gag” laws. Such laws have been proposed or even passed in states where animal-welfare organizations have been successful in exposing extreme animal cruelty, such as beating and skinning live animals in slaughterhouses or raiding dog-fighting rings.

To date, only one person has been charged under an “ag-gag” law. A young woman in Utah was charged for filming a factory farm from a public road, because some “ag-gag” laws criminalize even the collection of information. Liebman will discuss the implications of such laws as contrary to our First Amendment right of free speech.

Empowering all advocates

The Animal Law Conference is open for the public to attend. While many of us may not spend our days considering the technical details of animal law and cases of free speech, these issues can hit us hard when we are confronted with a situation of animal cruelty or neglect.

Neighbors who see chained dogs in an adjacent yard or communities outraged by animal-hoarding conditions may wonder why some situations are not against the law. Often, the details of animal protection and cruelty cases are complex, but knowledge of such issues can also give us the power to act and empower us to be better advocates for animals, whether they are neighborhood dogs or animals in factory farms.

To learn more about the Animal Law Conference, visit the Washington State Bar Association website at wsba.org and search the conference title.

For more information on the Animal Legal Defense Fund, visit aldf.org.

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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Foster care: ‘A shelter without walls’

mo-001

Mo, a foster cat from PAWS

Sept. 19th, 2013

Originally published in City Living Seattle and the Queen Anne News

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

My husband, Eric, and I had presided over a two-dog, one-cat household for a long time before one of our dogs passed away in May. We were not ready to commit to another dog. Instead, we decided to foster cats and dogs from a local rescue group and help out one animal at a time.

We signed up with the Progressive Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) since its shelter is close to our North Seattle home. There are also foster programs through the Seattle Animal Shelter (SAS) and numerous private rescue groups. Smaller rescue groups also depend on foster families to care for homeless pets because they do not have a brick-and-mortar shelter.

Eric and I acquired the requisite training to volunteer and to learn how to engage with the foster-care system. We learned about pickups, drop-offs, vet appointments and how to encourage good behavior in the home so our foster animal will be adopted.

I was ecstatic when PAWS’ foster-care coordinator Rebecca Oertel called to say she had a dog needing care for two weeks. By the end of the day, our confident yet tiny foster dog, Mariah (a Chihuahua mix), was firmly established in our home and was spending her Friday night in a rambunctious play session with our dog, Toby.

Toby loved every minute of his new playmate’s company. They chased and played tug of war (with both sanctioned and unsanctioned socks). At times, my cat Buca would sit high on the counter and watch Mariah bounce around the living room like a ball in a tennis match.

Toby and Mariah

Toby and Mariah

As a puppy, Mariah needed guidance on house training, but she quickly absorbed new commands like “sit” and “stay.” She was a joy to have in our home.

When I got a voice mail that a family was keen on adopting Mariah, I was overjoyed, yet I braced myself to miss her petite and energetic spirit. Toby, Eric and I took Mariah back to the shelter together, and the abundance of kisses and hugs were natural at such a moment to say goodbye.

New foster family members

That day, Oertel introduced us to Mo, a 20-pound Maine Coon-mix cat with a positive outlook and polite disposition. In our extra bedroom, Mo hunkered down in the closet. But within a day, he found the lounge chair and amply filled it as if the space between the arms was destined for a giant, long-haired, white cat.

Mo was a perfect gentleman toward dogs, cats and people. He even graciously notified me when it was time for his litter box to be cleaned, and he kept himself and his surroundings in order. Indeed, he was a perfect houseguest, complete with good “meow” conversations in nearly comical tones.

We found it exceptionally difficult to take Mo back to the shelter so that he could meet some potential adopters. Mo awaits adoption at PAWS Cat City in Seattle’s University District.

Our current foster dog, Choco (a Chihuahua mix), is about 2 years old and started out timid around new people. Within days, she learned that life at the Lagally house is safe for dogs, and she found good company in my cat, Buca.

Choco and her shoe pile

Choco and her shoe pile

Like Mariah and Mo, Choco’s unique personality is a delight to discover. Chaco loves shoes, and she collects them from all over our house — from closets, shoe racks or the back porch — and piles them on the couch. No shoe is ever damaged — just displayed as yet another glorious find. As we take joy in and offer respect for Choco’s shoe pile, she seems to learn that people are not so scary after all.

Rewarding connections

Animals at SAS or PAWS typically need temporary foster care to recover from a cold or surgery or to take a break from the shelter. Foster families come from all walks of life, including working people, families, apartment dwellers and homeowners.

“We literally have all lifestyles represented, said SAS spokesperson Kara Main-Hester.

Main-Hester said that SAS regularly has about 130 to 200 animals in foster care and more during kitten season, and more than 700 animals per year are cared for by foster parents serving our local city shelter.

Similarly, PAWS placed around 1,600 dogs, cats, kittens and puppies in foster homes last year alone.

“The foster-care program creates a shelter without walls,” explained Oertel, who emphasized that PAWS can always use more foster families, which, in turn, helps PAWS care for even more animals.

For me, not only do foster-care programs serve an important role as part of the companion animal-shelter system, such programs also give foster parents the rewarding, heartwarming chance to connect with some very precious souls who we might otherwise never get to encounter in our journey through life.

For more information on local foster-care programs, visit the Seattle Animal Shelter website at seattle.gov/animalshelter, or contact PAWS at paws.org/foster.html

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a writer and the editor of “Living Humane,” a news site providing information on humane-conscious lifestyles at livinghumane.com. She also writes a blog called “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at http://www.sniffingouthome.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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