Posts tagged Seattle

AMONG THE ANIMALS: Second Chance Rescue saves homeless pets with needed special care

Dr. Valerie Sherer and Preston

Dr. Valerie Shearer and Preston

By Christie Lagally

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

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

April 5, 2013

[Update: Preston (left) has been adopted since the writing of this article.]

Every rescue group has a creation story, but this one is unique. It begins in the hearts of Dr. Steven Weinrauch and licensed veterinary technician Michelle St. Mary, as well as the many volunteers who rose to the call to provide top-notch veterinary care to shelter and homeless pets.

Weinrauch, a local veterinarian working at the time for a national, corporate-run veterinary hospital, saw a great need. The Gold Bar puppy mill had been raided, and a lot of those dogs needed medical care. So together with his future business partner, St. Mary, Weinrauch’s wife, Kathryn (a fellow veterinarian), and many other willing veterinarians in the Puget Sound region, Weinrauch attempted to open his hospital and give the dogs the care they needed.

But not everyone was on board: Weinrauch’s employer did not approve. Use of company hospitals and resources to help non-paying clients — let alone dogs without owners — was not allowed. Weinrauch and St. Mary, of course, took care of the dogs anyway.

That was four years ago. Since then, Weinrauch and St. Mary have expanded their initial ambition to care for homeless pets into a successful veterinary practice that carefully integrates their philanthropic values into every aspect of the business.

Both Drs. Kathryn and Steven Weinrauch and St. Mary now operate Second Chance Rescue, with a network of veterinary hospitals, including three they created from the ground-up: Northpointe Animal Hospital in Lynnwood, Main Street Animal Hospital in Mill Creek and Snohomish Station Animal Hospital in Snohomish.


Preston napping in his foster home

Preston napping in his foster home

A philanthropic mission
When you walk into the Northpointe Animal Hospital, it is obvious that the facility was built to suit a practice offering quality veterinary care and the ability to accommodate the needs of all patient needs — including those animals coming from shelters into the care of Second Chance Rescue.

This model, a synergistic combination of nonprofit and business, is not just about sharing space. Every part of Weinrauch and St. Mary’s practice has a philanthropic arm. Drug suppliers are asked to donate medicine for rescue patients when the company makes an order for antibiotics or arthritis medication meant for regular patients. Suppliers of vet-prescribed products, like prescription dog or cat foods, are asked to donate bags of food for the Second Chance dogs and cats.

Even in the construction of the new Northpointe hospital, St. Mary and Weinrauch asked contractors to donate a certain amount of their time to support the rescue.

The result is a fine example of socially conscience entrepreneurship that serves animal clients with or without human owners.

But because of its specialty services, animals taken into the rescue are referred by groups like PAWS, not directly from the public. Kay Joubert, PAWS director for Companion Animal Services, explained that Second Chance is one of its Placement Partners, a trusted organization with which they transfer animals to ensure proper care and the best chance for the right adoptive home.

Second Chance came with a glowing recommendation from the Everett Animal Shelter, which rescued the Gold Bar puppy mill dogs. Joubert said that the decision to transfer a dog to Second Chance depends on the needs of that animal and whether Second Chance has the right foster home to give an animal long-term care.

Preston at the park

Preston at the park

Currently at Second Chance, 7-year-old Preston is up for adoption. True to its mission, Preston is under the care of Second Chance because of his epilepsy. This gentle soul needed special attention to control seizures and receives that from Northpointe veterinarian Dr. Valerie Shearer.

In fact, every person who works for St. Mary and Weinrauch’s hospitals also gives their time to the rescue of dogs and cats. Shearer also serves as Preston’s foster family until the right home is found.

A new solution
Second Chance Rescue appears to have done more than create a new rescue group: It created a new solution to help homeless pets.

“We have a wonderful collaboration with Second Chance,” Joubert said, adding that PAWS also consults with Weinrauch on medical cases within its shelter system.

The advantages of having an animal-rescue focus on specialty veterinary care are clear. Dogs and cats become homeless for a variety of reasons and come to shelters and rescue groups with many complex needs. Some need a trainer, some need a breed-specific rescue and some, like Preston, need a generous dose of expert veterinary care from the dedicated volunteers at Second Chance Rescue.

For more information about Second Chance Rescue, visit Information on PAWS can be found at

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is host of Living Humane on KKNW 1150 AM ( and writes a blog called “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at To comment on this story, write to

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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Pasado’s provides safe haven for abused animals

Lamp Chop as a baby sheep

Lamb Chop as a baby sheep

By Christie Lagally

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

January 10, 2013

Originally published in the Queen Anne News and City Living Seattle

The grunts and oinks from Bentley and Oscar started up immediately as we walked into their stall at Pasado’s Safe Haven. Stacie Martin, the sanctuary director of operations, was giving us a tour, and she kept saying we should come meet the pigs. But clearly, we were there for the pigs to meet us.

Stacie Martin and Bentley

Stacie Martin and Bentley

Bentley a stout, pink Potbelly pig had a lot to say — particularly where to scratch on his back and grunts of hello to my husband, who joined me on the tour.

Pasado’s is a unique place as a sanctuary for all types of animals, but also for their work changing law. In its nearly 15-year history, the organization has pressed through anti-cruelty laws that made many types of animal abuse toward companion and farm animals a felony in Washington state.

The sanctuary is named for the loss of a loved one: a beloved donkey named Pasado, who was brutally beaten and killed by teenagers. In the wake of his death, the founders of Pasado’s Safe Haven made it their mission to require stiff penalties for animal cruelty and to see that justice is served.

In that fine tradition, today, Pasado’s employs three animal-cruelty investigators and, this year alone, has re-homed or provided sanctuary to more than 700 animals in need. Many of the sanctuary animals are rescues from cruelty investigations.

Chickens at roosting hour

Chickens at roosting hour

A better life

A chicken barn full of white to red, big to small chickens, roosters and even a rogue turkey was our next stop. Martin explained that 50 of the white birds had come from a factory farm in Turlock, Calif., where 50,000 hens were left to starve to death earlier this year. Local animal-control agencies found 17,000 hens dead on arrival.

Animal Place, a farm-animal sanctuary in California, took more than 4,000 of the hens, and other organizations like Farm Sanctuary and Pasado’s took hens as well.

Now, with the freedom to walk around and to act like a chicken, these hens — unlike their pig neighbors — had little concern for our presence at the twilight roosting hour.

But the difference between the conditions shown in a photo of battery-caged chickens on the barn wall and the busy, nesting white hens before me was not just visual — it was palpable. These animals had been rescued from horrible conditions, and they intended to live their lives uninterrupted from now on.

Goat turned in for the night

Goat turned in for the night

Our tour continued to meet some goats tucked into piles of wood chips for the night. Whoopi Goatberg came to the stall door to observe and say hello to Martin.

“We have a bunch of animals named for celebrities,” Martin explained, rattling off a list that included Michelle O’Llama, Ellen Deheneras and George Plummy.

‘Guests of honor,’ not meals

Pasado’s is built on 85 acres of rocky, steep, forested land just east of Seattle. Generous donors have enabled continuous building and rebuilding to accommodate all types of animals, from goats to cats.

Dali Llama protecting his barn

Dali Llama protecting his barn

With the exception of the abusive pasts that so many of these animals suffered, this sanctuary is farm life as it should be: safe, comfortable, clean and honest. By its very existence, it is advocacy against the modern factory farm.

As we entered a central hillside barn, we met Dali Llama, the protector of his herd. Nonviolent and clear in his convictions, as his name suggests, Dali watched over a donkey, two ponies, three little pigs and three sheep: Lady Baa Baa, Bo Peep and Lamb Chop.

“We give some of the animals names that reminds people of the food they eat.” Martin explained. The intention is to bring awareness to the fact that precious lives are lost for meat consumption, and Lamp Chop was certainly precious.

Roaming the barn with sheep and pigs, you cannot help but be reminded that these are the lucky ones, because modern agriculture has turned barns into factories where animals are caged and crated indefinitely and where antibiotics must be used to prevent sickness in atrocious and unhealthy conditions.

Lamp Chop all grown up

Lamb Chop all grown up

So this Thanksgiving at Pasado’s, human guests ate a gourmet vegan meal prepared by chef Bridget McNasser, and an honorary meal was served to the resident turkeys as reminder of the new role that animals can play during the holidays: “where turkeys are the guest of honor and not the main course.” The event was a fund-raiser for the sanctuary and a reminder that the holidays need not be about meat.

Our tour with Martin was completed with a walk past some tail-wagging dogs and feral cats.

Eric saying goodnight to Benley and Oscar

Eric saying goodnight to Bentley and Oscar

New things to consider

As my husband and I drove home, we reflected on each of the sweet faces and unique personalities we had met in such a short evening at the sanctuary.

While thinking of Lamp Chop’s serene presence to Bentley’s informative oinks, my husband asked, “Shall we have Tofurky or the vegan Field Roast for Christmas dinner?” I’m still deciding, but delighted to know I have lots of options for a humane holiday meal.

For more information on Pasado’s Safe Haven, visit 

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is host of “Living Humane” on KKNW 1150 AM and writes a blog called “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at  HYPERLINK “” To comment on this story, write to

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Seattle Veg Fest 2013: Seattle Times honors its veg-curious to vegan community!

Author and Chef Miyoko Schinner

Author and Chef Miyoko Schinner

VEG FEST 2103 SEATTLE, March 24 — First, hats off to Amanda Strombom and Stewart Rose and their 1000+ volunteers for putting on the best Veg Fest ever this year!  Second, hats off to the Seattle Times and reporter Carol Ostrom for her VegFest experience article here!

My husband and I had an awesome time at Veg Fest 2013!  Thanks to an understanding boss who allowed me to fly home from a work week in Japan, a whole lot of Advil to get over a cold, and my dedicated husband who not only volunteered to set up for Veg Fest, but got me there to the even to enjoy every minute!

Coreena at Veg Fest

Coreena at Veg Fest

Without a doubt, the vegan cheese presentation with Miyoko Schinner was top-notch!  Her presentation on her personal journey discovering cheese and learning about the dangers of dairy consumption was so well presented that she should have her own show!  Oh wait, we found out that she now does!  Miyoko will be hosting Delicious TV’s Vegan Mashup that airs on KCTS beginning in April on our favorite local PBS station, KCTS!

Folks from Harbor Creek Farms

Folks from Harbor Creek Farms

Eric and I ran into a bunch of friends at Veg Fest who also volunteered.  Our musician friend Coreena, who recently made an appearance on Living Humane Radio, volunteered to help out at the Viana booth.  Apparently this is my first experience with Viana, since it was a new taste, and loved it!

Another fun surprise was the food from Harbor Creek Farm who make a vegan mushroom strudel that will rival any pastry from the boulangerie.    Then we stopped by the Field Roast booth to stock up on hot dogs that we already knew we loved, and made our way to a booth with vegan chili sauce that was knock-your-sock-off good.

Grama's Sweet Chili Sauce

Grama’s Sweet Chili Sauce

Bar-coded man

Bar-coded man

We also met a gentleman from Small Planet Organics with a bar code on his head.   We didn’t have one of those phones that could read his forehead, but I guess it took us to this website.

Folks from Chimp Sanctuary NW

Folks from Chimp Sanctuary NW

Luckily our friends from NARN, Fur Bearer Defenders, HSUS, and  Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest were there to remind us of one of the many reasons we choose to be vegan — the animals! But my favorite part of the whole day was just being at Veg Fest with my husband Eric.

Eric at Veg Fest 2013

Eric at Veg Fest 2013

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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Pasado’s provides safe haven for abused animals

Lamp Chop as a baby sheep

Lamp Chop as a baby sheep

Pasado’s Safe Haven is a special place, and I encourage you to check out this story about the wonderful animals at the Sanctuary and the service that the organization provides our community.

City Living Seattle

Queen Anne News

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AMONG THE ANIMALS | Waste in Seattle

Nicki and Bill Walters from The Pooper Troopers

By Christie Lagally

Oct. 9, 2012

Originally published in City Living Seattle

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

People, pavement and streams. This is a toxic combination, according to Dave Ward, regional stewardship program manager for the Puget Sound Partnership.

“We work on programs that address the impact of our day-to-day actions on the environment,” Ward said. And one action that benefits the environment is picking up your dog’s waste.

Most cities require you to “stoop and scoop,” but many cities do not tell you what to do with it. Does it go in the trash, the toilet, a composter?

In Seattle, the directions are clear: Pick it up, bag it, tie it off and throw it in the trash. Any questions? Ask Ward.

How to get rid of it?

“The volume of dog waste in Puget Sound is roughly equivalent to 300,000 people using outhouses,” Ward said.

Ward explained that pet waste left on the ground contaminates rainwater with bacteria. The bacteria is concentrated as rainwater runs off onto pavement and finally into Puget Sound, where it can harm orcas, salmon and even children and pets.

Unlike animal waste deposited by a bear or a deer in the forest, where the bacteria in rainwater is filtered by soil in an undisturbed ecosystem, most of Seattle’s pet waste occurs in neighborhoods where pavement prevents rainwater from being filtered.

What about flushing the waste? This is a question Ward has heard before, and Puget Sound Partnership looked into all the waste-disposal options.

“Dog waste is basically no different than human waste,” Ward said.

As long as you live in areas where you are connected to a waste-treatment plant, you can flush dog waste. But Ward found that septic systems, such as those found in rural areas, did not have the capacity to handle both human and dog wastes.

What about composting? Ward’s team looked at this issue, as well. Some folks they interviewed maintained composting units that were either commercially sold or built in their yards. A small number of citizens used a commercial enzyme to break down the bacteria at a cost of $7 per month.

But the risks are high for a compost system like this, and especially for a municipal agency to recommend such a system. Failure by residents to maintain the composter or, worse, if residents simply bury the waste, would be the equivalent of thousands of broken septic systems, according to Ward.

Haven’t I been taught to avoid adding to the landfill? In Ward’s search for the right way to deal with dog waste, his team contacted landfill operators and waste haulers to get their reaction to taking approximately 20 tons of dog waste per day per city.

Ward reported that both the operators and the haulers said, “We won’t even notice.” It turns out that the major source of volume in landfills is actually paper and construction waste; pet waste plays a minor role at most. Furthermore, landfills manage their liquid runoff, thereby, containing the bacteria.

A little extra help

So now I’m convinced that we must bag it and trash it, but what if you don’t have time or can’t do it yourself? In Seattle, you can get help.

Nicki and Bill Walters own The Pooper Trooper, a company that offers waste removal for dog owners, as well as commercial pet-waste services. Their staff visits your home regularly, pick up the waste in your yard and dispose of it properly. The company also installs and maintains dog-waste stations for public areas and special events, such as hotels hosting a dog show.

Being where the dog poo is also gives the Pooper Troopers a chance to keep an eye out for dogs in need. According to Walters, while their clients are responsible dog owners, her staff may see lost dogs in the neighborhood or neglected dogs in adjacent yards. Troopers work in conjunction with several local animal groups to help animals in tough situations and also donate their time and funds to help dogs in need.

Alongside Pooper Trooper, there are several other such businesses in our region. The Happy Pooper Scooper, run by Tom Arena in Seattle, provides both cat litter-box cleaning and dog-waste collection. Arena, a former truck driver-turned-entrepreneur, donates 10 percent of his profits to King County Animal Care and Control to help care for animals in our regional animal shelter.

So what’s the lesson to learn for today about animal waste? Bag it, trash it and do it right away, before it rains. If you can’t do it yourself, find someone who can.

According to Ward, with 40 percent of the nearly 4.5 million people in the Puget Sound region owning dogs, disposing of your dog’s waste properly is an easy, day-to-day action that benefits everyone in and out of Puget Sound.

For more information about the Puget Sound Partnership, visit

The Pooper Trooper and The Happy Pooper Scooper websites are at and, respectively.

To learn about King County Animal Care and Control, visit

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My debate with the candidates

As the presidential, gubernatorial and legislative races scurry towards November, candidates and parties are attempting to address my concerns — assuming my concerns are already on their agenda.  As a woman, an aerospace worker and a member of the middle class, my vote is clearly valuable if you judge the campaign by the content of 30-second commercial debates.

But what if my actual concerns for the problems in our community are not on the political agenda of the candidates at all?   Do they ever get addressed or even heard?  Is my vote ever wooed in the direction of a candidate that I actually want in office?

I’ve always felt that rather than debate an opponent, candidates should debate a voter instead.   And with that format, the field is wide open on topics for discussion.

So my debate with the candidates would include issues of the Washington economy and access to affordable health care, but it would also include my long-term concern for the welfare of animals and support for the un-glorified government agencies and organizations that try to address these issues.

And I’m not alone.  Not only is Seattle an intensely dog-centric city, it is home to roughly 50 animal rescue, welfare and advocacy groups.  Additionally, these groups don’t even reflect a true estimate of the number of individuals who live without harming animals at all.  For example, if we use the density of vegan restaurants (around 20 or so thriving businesses in the City of Seattle) as a yardstick of the number of people interested in the welfare of animals, this unit of measure indicates that Seattleites not only care about animals and what happens to them, but they have created a community that reflects that ethos.

Furthermore, our population of vegetarians, feral cat rescuers, pet adopters, shelter volunteers, foster families, and conscientious people who are willing to take that extra step to house back-yard chickens and goats, buy free-range eggs and support humanely raised local meats should indicate to candidates that animals matter in our community.

So in my hypothetical debate with the candidates, here are a few issues I would like to discuss.

For the past few years, legislators in Olympia have passed over future consideration of the so-called spay/neuter bills.  HB 1226 and SB 5151 would essentially create a state-wide program to provide low-cost, accessible spay/neuter services to all areas of Washington State.   The goal is to help reduce the number of homeless animals that are euthanized in our shelters and to relieve local governments of the financial pressure of dealing with so many homeless pets.  The problem is that it costs money.  Not much money, and the proposal for the program includes a fee on pet food to avoid using general funds.  The opposition is simply from people who are tax-phobic – even when cities and counties in Washington have to pay many times the cost of the spay/neuter program to euthanize animals rather than fix them.

Second, I want to know that progress will be made to help end long-term chaining or tethering of dogs in Washington State. This is an issue that was considered in previous legislative sessions as HB1755 and SB5649. Advocates hope to reintroduce the bills in the 2013 legislative session. From my discussions with a handful of Washington candidates, opposition to this bill comes from legislators who don’t think you can tell people how to treat your dog.  So who will fight the good fight in Olympia?

I recently learned that the Washington Alliance for Humane Legislation (an advocacy group in Olympia) hopes to find sponsorship in the 2013 legislative session for a bill that would give animal control officers (ACO) in Washington the authority to enforce anti-cruelty and neglect laws (read more here).  I don’t need to see another news story about neglected, starving horses or a raided puppy mills to know this is a good idea, but I do need to know my representatives will support such a bill.

Finally, while I’m a fan of small businesses, I don’t feel that businesses that cost our government money, instead of adding to the economy, are appropriate.  This is the problem with retail pet stores found scattered across Washington State.  In the past few years, many city governments in Canada and the US have banned the retail sale of dogs, cats and rabbits to stop the flow of impulse-purchased pets into shelters and end support of puppy mills.  Austin, TX made an early move to ban the sale of dogs and cats and found an almost immediate reduction in the number of animal intakes at their local shelter.  The Los Angeles city council is poised to do the same this fall (ref: Spot).  LA council members in favor of the ban report that it will help reduce the nearly 20,000 animals euthanized in LA each year.

So why not in Washington State?  Why not in Seattle?  We have a lot of homeless pets in our city and our state, coupled with a network of private breeders who can provide purebred dogs to appropriate homes with the proper oversight.  We don’t need animals shipped from puppy and kitten mills in the Midwest and sold to any passers-by.  Furthermore, I’m tired of paying for the consequences of massive numbers of homeless pets shuffled through our animal control agencies statewide.  I want this to be an election issue, and I want to know where the candidates stand.

The propensity for candidates to stick to their issues has never been so well explained than by Anne Romney during her recent Iowa network interview.  When she was pressed to answer questions on birth control, she responded, “Again, you’re asking me questions that are not about what this election is going to be about.”

I’m fairly certain that an election is about what voters decide to speak up about.  And for me, this election agenda includes animal welfare and the financial pressures that failures to address these issues puts on our local and state governments.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a freelance columnist who writes for City Living Seattle newspaper and the blog “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at

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Ziggy and Eric: One year later

Ziggy and Eric in 2012 (Ziggy was napping!)

About a year ago, I wrote an article on the Pigs Peace Sanctuary where my husband Eric made fast friends with Ziggy, the 3-legged piggy!

This August, Eric and I returned to the Sanctuary for an awesome work party (!) and to say hello to Ziggy again!

See pictures:  Note, Ziggy was  a lot smaller then!

Ziggy and Eric in Aug. 2011

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DEATH AT SEAWORLD brings J,K and L pod’s story home to Puget Sound

click to jump to Seattle PI story

This Monday night, best-selling author David Kirby along with Naomi Rose of the HSUS, and three former SeaWorld orca trainers, Jeff Ventre, Carol Ray and Samantha Berg will be speaking at The Mountaineers near Magnuson Park.   Kirby’s book, DEATH AT SEAWORLD, is a complex story that includes the brutal capture of Puget Sound orcas in Penn Cove  and the industry that perpetuated and covered up cruelty and atrocities committed against these animals.  The book is expertly reviewed here in Digital Journal.

Event information: Monday, July 23 ▪ SEATTLE, WA, The Mountaineers, 7:30 – 10:00 PM, 7700 Sand Point Way NE, Seattle, WA 98115

About the Book:

DEATH AT SEAWORLD introduces the real people taking part in this debate, from former trainers turned animal rights activists to the men and women that champion SeaWorld and the captivity of whales. Kirby follows the story of Naomi Rose Ph.D., marine mammal scientist for The Humane Society of the United States and senior scientist for The Humane Society International, whose warnings against keeping killer whales in captivity fell on deaf ears.  He also covers the media backlash, the eyewitnesses who come forward to challenge SeaWorld’s glossy image, and the groundbreaking OSHA vs. SeaWorld case. On May 30, 2012, the judge ruled on this case, stating that trainers performing with huge ocean predators need to be protected by physical barriers, or some other means providing the same level of safety.  The strict standard could effectively prevent SeaWorld from ever allowing its trainers to get back into the water during shows with the whales.

Kirby also introduces the reader to various killer whales, also known as orcas, (who are actually the world’s largest dolphins) and how they rarely, if ever, harm humans in the wild and are among the smartest animals in the world.

He can discuss the following shocking points:

¨ There are no records at any time in history of wild orcas seriously attacking or killing a person, but in captivity, aggressive acts against trainers are not uncommon, sometimes ending in severe injury or death.

¨ Some 15% of all orcas ever held in SeaWorld’s collection have been involved in acts of serious aggression against trainers, a dismal safety record that would never be tolerated in other industries.

¨ Orcas at SeaWorld have lunged at trainers, pulled them in the water, held them at the bottom of the pool, head-butted them, slammed them with tail flukes and breached on top of them.

¨ The 12,000 pound Tilikum – the world’s largest captive predator – killed Canadian trainer Keltie Byrne in 1991, attacked Daniel Dukes, a man who snuck into the tank in 1999 but did not make it out, and brutally killed trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010.

¨ To date, SeaWorld has spent $65 million since Dawn Brancheau’s death on high-tech safety features such as quick-rising false bottoms for pools and emergency “spare air” oxygen systems for orca trainers at the Shamu Stadiums in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio.

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Seafair! The Dreaded Soycodile and two little pigs

“The Dreaded Soycodile” at the Seattle Seafair

While giant lizards are rare in Seattle, our love of animals isn’t.   For many people, that means replacing a diet of cow’s milk with soymilk.  And since you’ve got all those soy-milk boxes anyway, might as well compete in Seattle’s Seafair Milk Carton Derby.

Much to my delight, The Dreaded Soycodile (left) made an appearance at the derby.  I have no idea whose fabulous creation this is, but it totally rocked. (Please contact me if Soycodile is yours!  I’d love to know more about it!)

The milk carton derby was good fun.  Some stayed in their boats, others did not.  And spectators were plentiful, including a few from “Bit 0’Bacon” pet pig rescue sanctuary.  The caretakers were educating folks about the responsibility of keeping (or not keeping) pet pigs.  The two pigs below munched on grass while others enjoyed their cuteness!

Now this is summer in Seattle!

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AMONG THE ANIMALS: Chimps find sanctuary from experiments

Negra with a blanket on her head

by Christie Lagally

Originally published in City Living Seattle

July 11, 2012

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

Photos courtesy of the Chimpanzee Sanctuary NW

The wind off the grassy, Eastern Washington hillside began to swirl as I got out of the car at the Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest (CSNW) in Cle Elum, Wash., in May. There was not a person or animal in sight. Naively, I expected the sound of jungle noises, like something in a Disney movie, but the place was silent.

I was nervous to visit. Are the chimps as human-like as I have read? Would it be difficult to learn about their prior lives in a laboratory? But the quiescent surroundings seemed to ease my fears.

“What a perfect place for chimpanzees to heal,” I thought.

Diana Goodrich, director of outreach, met me at the entrance to the building. Inside, resident chimpanzees Jamie, Jody, Missy, Negra, Annie, Burrito and Foxie were eagerly waiting for a lunch of fresh tomatoes, Brussels sprouts and leaks.


Annie with some food

Monkeying around

Located on 26 acres of private land, a cleverly constructed steel reinforced building allows the chimps a home to sleep, play, groom and otherwise live uninterrupted social lives as a cohesive group.

Hammocks are draped from the two-story-high, sky-lit ceilings and swing ropes and are strategically placed to access multiple platforms.

In my first glimpse of the building interior, I witnessed Missy and Annie playfully wrestling. Burrito came to the kitchen window to check on the progress of lunch, as Goodrich guided me through safety regulations that must be respected around chimpanzees.

Jamie, the leader of the troupe, arrived at the sanctuary with her six companions in 2008. The seven chimps were most recently used to test hepatitis vaccines, which required invasive liver samples taken on a regular basis — a terrifying experience for the chimps.

All of the chimps are in their late 20s or 30s, and their lives have been made up of several chapters of exploitation, abuse or trauma.

Jamie was forced to work in the entertainment industry before she was sold to into biomedical research.

Negra, the oldest chimp, was kidnapped from her parents in the wild as an infant. She lived in a research lab for roughly 35 years, often being used for “breeding” and was repeatedly traumatized by having her children taken from her shortly after birth.

While their home at the sanctuary can never replace life in the wild, this serene sanctuary offers relief, peace and the first opportunity for these chimpanzees to live with the dignity that they deserve.

Lunchtime starts with the enthusiastic arrival of the chimps. As good communicators, they indicate to Goodrich which vegetables they like most and want more of. Their individual personalities come out as she passes out tomato slices. Negra claps her hands when she is ready for another piece.

The vegetarian lunch is finished with special biscuits. Foxie playfully crams 18 biscuits into her mouth one-by-one, as Goodrich laughs at the contest to see how many Foxie will take.

“We serve the chimps; we don’t feed them,” explained Connie Robertson, a dedicated volunteer at the CSNW. “I’ve always been passionate about chimpanzees, and I wanted to give back, volunteer in some way.”

Robertson worked for many years cleaning and doing laundry at the sanctuary before she trained to serve the chimpanzees their meals.


Annie and Missy playing

Help is on the way

In recent months, the sanctuary added Young’s Hill, a 2-acre, fenced enclosure, to give the chimps access to a natural roaming area. Building the enclosure required many volunteer work parties over the summer. One such party from the Northwest Animal Rights Network (NARN) in Seattle sank 10-foot fence posts for the project — a monumental task.

NARN board president Rachel Bjork explained that her volunteers were recruited from the general public, as well as from among the fellow members of NARN. They were rewarded with the opportunity to see these wild animals up close.

The sanctuary staff includes several Central Washington University graduates of the Primate Behavior and Ecology program, whose experience with chimpanzees led them to the conclusion that the use of chimpanzees in medical research, and especially in entertainment, is unnecessary and certainly unethical.

But these advocates are not alone. The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH), a major funder of biomedical research using chimps, recently commissioned its own medical authorities to review chimp research.

The NIH’s December 2011 report states that chimpanzee research is superfluous due to more advanced research models and that ethics should be considered in the decision to do chimp-involved research. As a result, the NIH placed a temporary moratorium on future invasive research involving chimps and are examining current experiments that are still ongoing. New ethical standards are being reviewed.

Some 1000 chimpanzees are currently owned by the U.S. government for medical research — a number that nearly 180 U.S. Congressmen and -women hope to cut dramatically. Sen. Maria Cantwell, along with 14 co-sponsors in the Senate, introduced the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act (HR1513) in Congress. The act recently received its first hearing in April 2012.

The new legislation would retire 500 chimpanzees from medical research and phase out invasive research on chimpanzees by the U.S. government. The United States is only one of two countries in the world that use chimpanzees in biomedical research.

“Ending invasive research will mean a savings of more than $25 million per year for the American people,” Cantwell explained in a press release.

While biomedical chimp research is waning, the use of chimpanzees and other apes in entertainment is similarly unnecessary and is usually abusive. As wild animals, primates are coerced to act.

CSNW formed an advocacy arm called Primate Patrol to address this issue. Members are notified via e-mail about whom to contact to protest the use of primates in television and film. Patrollers can keep an eye out for featured animals in entertainment and report their appearance to Primate Patrol for follow-up.


Jamie examines a red boot

Free from harm

After my brief visit with the CSNW chimpanzees, I have become addicted to the organization’s blog. The site is updated with stunning pictures of the chimps living their lives on their own with a little help from sanctuary staff to provide enrichment.

Foxie is attached to dolls. Jamie is fascinated by shoes and boots. Negra and Jody love blankets. Annie and Missy are the best of friends who love to play, and Burrito, the only male, loves human interaction and loves to eat.

Being around chimpanzees seems to make you ask all the right questions about the ethical treatment of animals and what it means to us as we share the world with them.

For more information CSNW, visit its website at

For a local connection to animal welfare, visit the NARN website at

CHRISTIE LAGALLY writes a blog called “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at

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