Finding a missing pet

In February, I saw a shocking Instagram post from a person I follow. Her dog walker lost her dog. Sugar is still missing, and not a day goes by when I don’t think about her. If you know anything or see her, go to her Facebook page.

More recently, a friend pointed me to a story with a happy ending. A couple who tracks lost dogs learned of a dog who needed help. He’d been spotted for months in a remote park near Mount Rainier. He was starving and afraid. No one could catch him. When Amanda and Dylan, the trackers, couldn’t lure him with food, they devised a new plan.

Amanda lied down on the ground. Amazingly, the dog approached. She whimpered. He lied down next to her. She gained his trust my making herself vulnerable. He helped her!

Amanda got a leash around the dog and he’s now in a foster home. But the story isn’t over. Baby Bear, as they’re calling him, was likely lost, not abandoned. If he has a family, they need to be reunited. To help, go to Amanda and Dylan’s site, Lost and Found Pets Washington State or their Facebook page.

In the weeks between when Sugar went missing in NYC and Baby Bear was found in the remote forest, I’ve seen other lost pet announcements–from Facebook to telephone poles. I realize that, tragically, a lot of people lose their beloved cats and dogs. Whether urban or rural, there is hope.

I thought I’d put together a bit of info to help prevent such a situation and devise a plan if the unthinkable happens.

Before your animal gets lost

  • Microchip your animals. This drastically increases the likelihood of a reunion.
  • Spay or neuter your animals. This decreases their desire to escape the house and wander away. It also means when you find your animal, she won’t come home pregnant.
  • Add your contact info to your animal’s collar. Consider a GPS collar. Both of these work only if the animal still has his collar on. The microchip will be your backup. Harder to read (only a vet, groomer, shelter, or other facility with a reader can), but impossible to lose.
  • Make your cats indoor cats and invest in a catio if they want to experience the outdoors in safety.
  • Check your fencing and make sure gates latch properly. Did the meter reader leave the gate open? Check.
  • Put your animals in a safe, quiet room during storms or fireworks, times when they might get startled and bolt.
  • Have pictures handy in case the unthinkable happens.

If your animal is lost

  • Start looking immediately! A big dog could run for miles, but a scared cat is likely close by and hiding. Chart your area based on your animal’s characteristics.
  • Make big posters and post them in high-traffic areas. Make indoor signs for vet’s offices, libraries, and grocery stores.
  • Check shelters, animal control, and vet’s offices. PAWS has a great checklist.
  • Tell your neighbors, use social media and spread the word.
  • Make sure your animal’s microchip info is up-to-date so if she is found, someone calls the correct number.
  • Consider humane trapping your cat. Cats don’t usually wander far and won’t often come when called if they are afraid.
  • Work with Missing Pet partnership, Lost Pet Professionals, or another organization that can help you find your animal.
  • Don’t give up.

If you find a stray animal*

  • Don’t chase the animal or call to him. He’s likely afraid.
  • Sit or lie down and let the animal’s curiously kick in.
  • Use a potato chip bag or treats container to make noise that the animal associates with food.
  • Drop food on the ground and use a looped leash to gently snare a dog.
  • An unwilling cat or dog may need to be trapped humanely.

*If the animal in question isn’t yours, exercise extreme caution. Call animal control if you think you’re placing yourself in danger. If you recognize the animal from a Lost sign, call someone who knows the animal.

More resources

How to find a lost dog, Huffington Post article
How to find your lost dog, a Petfinder article
Recovery tips, from Missing Pet Partnership
How to find a lost cat, from about.com
Must-do tips for finding a cat, a Petfinder article
How to find other animals (ferrets, tortoises, birds), from Missing Pet Partnership
Sign tips, from Missing Pet Partnership
Sign tips and downloadable template, from Lost Pets USA

* I should note that I prefer the terms companion animal and animal guardian, not pet and owner. However, when searching for resources or looking for a lost animal, the common terms are pet and owner.

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Greyhounds: Racing to the death

I first heard about dog racing in college, when a woman introduced me to her retired racing greyhound. I didn’t know how cruel the industry is until she explained some of the details.

  • Greyhounds are bred to race, but most don’t make the cut–and thousands of puppies are killed each year. Many are also injured (and then killed) while training or racing. When their racing “careers” are over, greyhounds are killed or sold into medical research. Only a lucky few are rescued and adopted into homes.
  • Greyhounds are muzzled and caged in cramped quarters for up to 20 hours a day. They often catch diseases in their tiny kennels because they are housed with so many other dogs.
  • Greyhounds often test positive for drugs (even cocaine!) and are seen as simply racing machines, with no regard for their well-being.
  • Greyhounds are gentle creatures but when they are bred to race, they are encouraged to be aggressive. Animals Australia recent blew the lid of the greyhound racing in that country when they exposed the ways trainers make their dogs more willing to chase a lure (they “blood” the dogs–basically, use live lure animals, like piglets, kittens and possums to bait the dogs, give them a taste for blood, and get them to chase a live lure during practice).

greyhounds racing

Dog racing is illegal in most states (and currently happens in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Texas, and West Virginia). Commercial racing also still takes place in 7 other countries including Australia, Ireland, Macau, Mexico, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam).

The races are an excuse to wager bets and try to win money, but there are other ways to gamble without abusing animals.

What to do?

  • Never go to a dog race–and tell your friends and family to stay away too.
  • Sign the Animals Australia petition on this page (scroll to the bottom).
  • Consider adopting a greyhound. This list includes US and international adoption groups working to save greyhounds.

Further reading

ASPCA’s page on greyhound racing (with downloadable report)
Grey2k website about greyhound racing
The Greyhound Cruelty page by Animals Australia and Animal Liberation Queensland
Peta factsheet about greyhound racing
Animal Rights Action post about the cruelty in the racing industry
Ten Myths about Greyhounds by Animals Australia

When tax dollars fund animal abuse

In the USA alone, more than $16 billion dollars of taxpayers’ money is spent on needless animal experiments every year. It’s a number that boggles my mind. I can’t even fathom the scale of abuse that 100 million animals endure in the name of “science.”

It frustrates me that I can’t earmark my tax dollars and funnel them into education, healthcare, and parks instead of cruelty.

Just when I thought I’d heard it all, I read a New York Times article about a taxpayer-funded animal research facility in Nebraska. This horrific lab conducts research on farmed animals to benefit the meat industry. They receive $22 million dollars of taxpayer money a year to torture and abuse animals. The experiments are so gruesome even people in the animal agriculture industry are appalled!

I’m grateful to the whistleblowers who shed light on this atrocity (and the journalists who ran with the info and got the story published). The NYT article exposes experiments at the 50-year-old U.S. Meat Animal Research Center.

At the Center, animals are genetically modified to produce more offspring–and the result is often babies who are born with horrendous deformities. Vet care is inadequate, “caretakers” aren’t properly trained, animals are starved to death, and newborns are left to die in open fields.DNA double helix

This is all in the name of higher yields and bigger profits. Researchers are looking for ways to produce heartier animals and more meat. It’s a twisted tale that belongs in a sci-fi movie–but it’s reality.

Sadly, cows, pigs, and sheep are excluded from protection under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). Only Congress can stop such egregious animal suffering by making changes to the Act.

The American Anti-Vivisection Society has put together a great page to help you reach out to your legislators.

Please tell your legislators that you are outraged that federal government funds are used for such cruelty and that it must be stopped. Politely tell them that ALL animals deserve protection under the Animal Welfare Act.

There are so many reasons why I want nothing to do with the meat industry. I don’t willingly give them any of my money. I hate that they get taxpayer funding. With enough public pressure, taxpayer–who also happen to be voters–can get this place shut down!

Please help me shut it down!

Saving Elephants: An Interview with ESPFund founder Scott Nelson

I recently met up with Scott Nelson, the founder of ESPFund, an organization that is helping African elephants. I wanted to learn more about how ESPFund came to be. Here’s what I learned:

What is ESPFund?
ESPFund is short for Endangered Species Protection Fund, a Seattle-based 501c3 nonprofit helping to stop the extinction of African elephants, and by extension also helping rhinos, lions, giraffes, and other wildlife. We partner with African communities to help them protect the biodiversity not only of their areas, but of the earth overall, since many species and ecosystems exist only in Africa.

How did ESPFund get started?
I see the over-exploitation of our environment as the biggest issue of our time, and I was not comfortable ignoring my love of elephants and letting others fight for them. I am not able to ignore the killing of such an amazing creature as the elephant. It goes against everything that I am and that I believe about myself and my place in the universe. We can all learn from elephants. Most people would agree that they are amazing, and yet we kill them by the thousands, and historically, by the millions. We are now down to the last remaining few.

baby elephant

What drew you to elephants?
This species is considered keystone, and their prevalence is indicative of a healthy ecosystem. They are so unique, so majestic and representative of the wild blue yonder, and so intelligent, that to me their decimation represents one of the clearest cases of humans destroying our very own habitat. I believe that elephants are like the canary in the mineshaft, and that the fate of humans is linked to the fate of elephants. If we lose them, it means we have irrevocably lost our way and poisoned our own environment beyond the point of no return. If we cannot protect such an intelligent being as the elephant, can we save ourselves from our own destructive ways?

How are you different from other organizations that help endangered animals?
We believe people need better options for channeling their conservation interests into change. Traditionally, many nonprofits start off with a noble idea, but in the growth process, they become large companies where accountability can become hazy, salaries get excessive, and the activities become too self-serving and competition-based. We are volunteers who are motivated by the mission, and our focus is specific, specialized, micro: Stop the poaching of elephants by giving Seattle and others a direct link to conservation in Africa.

In Africa, this must be intertwined with community involvement, so that is why we partner with other nonprofits whose missions center economic development. In this way we appeal to those supporters whose hot button is the poaching of endangered species, and we give those supporters a direct link to the front line. The collaboration aspect also provides a greater degree of oversight and accountability, because nobody wants to partner with a shady organization.

Can you explain a bit about the goals of ESPFund and how you’re meeting these goals?
We want to help communities secure areas where wildlife will be safe in the long run. We start by finding community groups that are trustworthy and motivated. Right now we are focused in Kenya, near Tsavo West National Park and Mt. Kilimanjaro. We have partnered with a community group that falls between the areas tended to by larger nonprofits. We are getting their community rangers trained and equipped so they can work alongside the Kenya Wildlife Service and other private rangers, sharing resources and expanding their reach.

Our goal is to turn this patchwork of private and government rangers into a cohesive, effective network, and get them to a point where their operating area is free of poaching. Along the way we assist the community in forming a wildlife preserve within the protected area so they can bring in tourists and make a living by showing off their amazing part of the world. We then take the same model and apply it to a new area, and so on.

The group fighting for Elephants

What are the highlights of your work with ESPFund so far?
Working with the community rangers is amazing. We trained them on self-defense and first aid, along with training on Kenya’s wildlife laws and integrating with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Many of them are former poachers who are now passionate about saving wildlife. One of the rangers is a member of the Maasai tribe who rides his bicycle for three hours on rough dirt roads to get to get to the patrol area. That’s dedication!

We also recently promoted the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos in Seattle where we had Tom Skerritt speak, along with Sam Wasser from the UW and Wendie Wendt from Big Life. It was part of a worldwide awareness-raising campaign, and we made many contacts around the world that we will work with in the near future. Also, working with the leaders of other nonprofits, planning and strategizing, is promising and encouraging for the future of wildlife in East Africa.

What’s next for you and the Fund?
The elephants are coming! They will be making a stand in Seattle. Look for the Elephants’ Last Stand in the coming months around the city. This will be a large fundraiser. As soon as funds are available, we will be focusing on building a ranger base in Kenya, getting rangers trained by KWS and better equipped, and expanding our efforts into Tanzania.

How can people help your cause?
We need help in all forms! We need contacts and introductions to people and organizations that want to save wildlife.  Donations of funds and outdoor equipment are sorely needed. (editor’s note: Look for the Donate Now button on the ESPFund home page)

We make every dollar count and not a cent is spent on overhead costs. Every member of our organization is donating their time and energy, and I personally oversee the allocation of all assets. We need someone with WordPress expertise to help with our website, and we need motivated and reliable people to join our fundraising committee. A graphic designer is needed for flyer production and other graphics. Soon we will need adventurous volunteers to come to Kenya and help build a ranger base. Lastly, I direct you to our What You Can Do page.

It is imperative that everyone who cares about wildlife starts to think much more frequently about doing what they can to save the animals we have left. And if you care about African wildlife and want to help save it, we want to hear from you.

Anything else you would like to add?
Well, yes, if I may step onto my soapbox for a bit, I would like to close with this:

For thousands of years elephants have been persecuted, while simultaneously revered for their intelligence, compassion, and “godliness.” King Solomon, Roman emperors, and countless ancient kings and leaders in Europe, while hunting the elephants for their ivory and using them for war, along with philosophers like Aristotle, Pliney, and Aelian, all praised the elephants for their power, intelligence, community spirit, and moral virtues. Edward Topsell, a naturalist and parson in the 1600’s, summed elephants up by saying “there is no creature among all the beasts of the world which hath so great and ample demonstration of the power and wisdom of almighty god as the elephant.”

There are many authors, scientists, conservationists, and even the occasional politician, all saying that the wild is vanished, that the end of nature is here. Personally, I agree with them. I have seen it in what most people consider the wildest place on earth: Africa. The African wild is gone, taken over by overpopulation and corporate and political interests. We as humans have successfully tamed, bent, and broken nonhuman life to our desires, and we have proven our dominance over our surroundings, to our own detriment. And we are continuing to do so by continuing to believe and act as if we are separate from other life forms, and smarter than other life forms. In the coming years we will see iconic species after species disappear forever from earth because we failed to respect their instinctual desire for contentment and survival, and we failed to understand that our own survival is intertwined with theirs.

There seems to be a collective view that as long as there is a dam providing us power, a farm providing us food, a factory providing us gadgets and technology, and our 401k is growing, then we have what we need and everyone and everything else is either extra or irrelevant. We forgot that we need nature. Nature does not need us, but we need nature for our own survival. It is easy to forget we need nature, because the day-to-day changes in our surroundings are so minute that we barely notice the slow deterioration of our environment. But when we step back and look at the changes of our planet on a decade by decade basis, then we see how much things have “progressed.”

I believe we as humans on this earth are at a critical point, a point where if we are not actively working to create positive change, then we are actively hurting ourselves and our future as a species. It is time for each of us to change course and show our dominance in new ways. By showing respect for all other creatures and their habitats, we can show that the new dominance is a spirit of protectiveness, humility, and cooperation. It is the only way that we can protect our own future as a species.

ESPFund logo

Thank you Scott! I’m happy to be involved is such a noble and urgent cause.

How much is that doggie in the window?

When I was a kid, my grandparents bought a dog from the House of Puppies. I never thought twice about it because Angus, as they named him, was a cute, fun puppy. Looking back, I have a few questions. Sadly, I know the answers.

Pet store puppies

Most puppies from pet stores come from puppy mills (the exception being pet supply stores that showcase adoptable dogs from local rescue groups). Puppy mills are large-scale, commercial dog breeding facilities that breed dogs repeatedly. While the puppies are sold to families, their parents suffer in dirty cages for years, often with little to no veterinary care. These places are like factory farms for dogs. A pedigree doesn’t mean a thing–dogs from puppy mills can have pedigrees and be AKC registered. Never buy a dog from a pet store, not even to “save the puppy.” You’ll just be putting money into the wrong hands and increasing demand for more dogs.

Puppy mill

Online dog sales

Buying a puppy online is a recipe for disaster. The dogs likely come from puppy mills too. A “responsible breeder” won’t sell to an unknown person and ship dogs (I put quotes around responsible breeder for reasons I’ll address below). An online purchase is opening the door to scam artists who might take your money and not deliver the “goods.” Puppies might be sick, or “not as advertised.” Many puppies die during transport. Even if  puppies make it to their destination and are healthy, online sales support a shady business that puts money before the dogs’ well-being. Don’t do it!

Backyard breeders

Smaller, non-commercial operations also abound. Maybe it’s because someone wants a litter to show the kids “the miracle of life,” or they have an idea for a “boutique dog” (cockapoo, puggle anyone?). Backyard breeders know nothing about their dogs’ genetics or how to avoid congenital issues with the puppies. Sometimes the litter was a complete accident. They often sell unlicensed puppies online, at flea markets or on Craigslist. Don’t support this irresponsibility.

Responsible breeders

This is the preferred term for people who specialize in specific breeds, selectively breed a limited amount of dogs, and are careful with regard to genetics, screens prospective owners. Responsible breeders will take back their dogs at any time for any reason (thereby keeping dogs out of shelters) and often are involved with breed-specific rescue. Of these four categories, this is the best one. Judging by the number of purebred dogs in shelters, it’s also the rarest.

Adopt don’t shop

Despite some people being relatively responsible with their dog businesses, I can’t endorse buying a dog. Why? Because 2.7 million adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized in the US every year. Almost half the households in the country have at least one dog but only 20% of the dogs were acquired through adoption. Of the 83 million dogs in homes today, 20 million were rescued. That’s great, but it also means if we don’t buy from breeders, we could clear out the shelters overnight! And not until shelters are empty would I even consider endorsing breeders.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, you can get puppies and purebreds (and purebred puppies) at shelters–25% of the dogs in shelters are purebred. And the dogs aren’t bad. They often end up in shelters because they were lost, their owners were moving, had too many other animals, had a baby, developed allergies, or couldn’t afford caring for the dog.

Which dog dies?

When someone adopts a shelter dog, they make room in the shelter for another needy dog. Conversely, when someone buys from a pet store, online, or from a breeder, they essentially let a shelter dog die. For every dog purchased, one isn’t adopted. Yeah, yeah, dogs in shelters “aren’t my problem.” but it sure is nice to help out an animal in need.

dogs at a shelter - photo by Estambar

Ready-made family member

I prefer shelter dogs because I get to meet them, assess their personalities, and adopt one that fits with my life and the other animals I live with. I’ve only adopted adult dogs, which meant I didn’t have to housetrain them, they didn’t destroy my house with chewing like puppies can, and they were already fixed and vaccinated.

When you’re considering a new addition to your family, walk past that window and straight into your local animal shelter.

Global March for Elephants and Rhinos

Every 15 minutes, an elephant is killed.

Every 9 to 11 hours, a rhino is killed.

These beautiful creatures are often poached for their ivory and horns. Whether for trinkets or so-called medicine, there is no justification for their deaths.

That’s why, this Saturday, thousands of people from over 125 cities around the world are participating in the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos. The event will bring awareness to the plight of elephants and rhinos–two species whose very existence is in peril (poaching kills 35,000 elephants and over 1,000 rhinos every year).

The march will put pressure on  governments around the globe to publicly destroy their stockpiles of wildlife parts and show zero tolerance for this illegal trading. The main reason these species are in decline is because of the growing trade in tusks and horns. Here are the details for the Seattle event:

What:  Global March for Elephants and Rhinos
When:  Saturday, Oct. 4th at noon – 2 pm
Where: International Children’s Park, 700 S Lane St, Seattle, WA 98104.

Global march for elephants and rhinos

The march will be about half a mile long. Signs will be provided, but you can bring your own. For more info or to RSVP to the event, check out the event’s Facebook page.

Before the march, a lineup of speakers will inform, inspire, and entertain. Cathy Sorbo, comedian and former Seattle PI columnist, will emcee the event. Speakers include:

  • Tom Skerritt, acclaimed actor and passionate animal conservationist.
  • Wendie Wendt, Executive Director of Big Life Foundation, one of the leading organizations in the fight to stop poaching.
  • Kathleen Gobush PhD, A research scientist who worked with Save the Elephants, a key player in saving elephants in Kenya. Currently she is a Senior Project Developer with Vulcan.
  • Lisa Kane JD, a retired lawyer and author who has advocated for the welfare of captive and wild elephants locally, nationally and internationally.

My friend Scott Nelson is working with the organizers of the Seattle march to make the event a success. Scott recently founded the Endangered Species Protection Fund, a 501c3 non-profit with a focus on protecting endangered species like elephants, rhinos and tigers. The ESP Fund website had a handy march map you can use to get to the event and follow the route.

Please help bring awareness to this crisis and help stop the demand for elephant tusks and rhino horns.

Another Successful Walk for Farm Animals

This past Saturday was the 2014 Seattle Walk for Farm Animals, a fundraiser for the rescued animals at Farm Sanctuary’s three shelters. Walkers raised close to $12,000 and donations are being accepted until September 27th, so pitch in if you’d like!

Like last year, we met at Green Lake to walk the 2.9 mile path around the lake. Before the walk, participants stretched at a yoga class, ate Mighty-O vegan donuts, and bid on items in the silent auction.

auction collage

After the walk, Br-er Rabbit, a Bellingham-based band played for the crowd while we ate delicious vegan food by Field Roast, Chaco Canyon Café, Pizza Pi, Seattle Cookie Counter, and No Bones About It.

Br-er Rabbit

Auction winners took home prizes like gift cards to Café Flora, cooking classes by Fire and Earth Kitchen, and a pet portrait session by Vegan Me.

The best thing you can do to help animals is to not eat them. Being vegan makes a huge difference to the lives of so many animals–and you’ll feel better too! If you’ve never been to a farm animal sanctuary, I encourage you to visit one and make the connection between the “food animals” in the food system and the animals at these wonderful shelters.

NARN table

Anika will help you go vegan

Billions of animals are killed for food every year–a number too big to fathom. But seeing the individuals at Farm Sanctuary and other safe havens makes the issue personal.