This Week in Animal Protection
News and headlines for April 2 - April 15, 2022
Over 300 animals starved to death in a Ukraine shelter that came under Russian bombardment. Russian soldiers are intentionally targeting animals – what should be a war crime – out of sheer cruelty and to break the spirit of Ukrainian soldiers and civilians resisting the invasion of their country.
These are some of the stories making headlines in animal protection:
Russian forces in Ukraine are targeting animals, including pet dogs and horses. “Russian soldiers in retreat from the Kyiv region left behind the bullet-riddled corpses of not just [cows], horses, and goats, but even pet dogs. By killing animals, the invaders seem to be responding to all the pictures of Ukrainians with pets in bomb shelters and evacuation convoys. The Russians have identified yet another way to inflict pain on the Ukrainian people — not by starving them but by breaking their hearts.” This is — or should be — a war crime.
More than 300 dogs starved to death at a Ukrainian shelter because of Russian bombardment. Adding insult to injury, the dogs who survived were “turned away at the Poland border due to regulations that stipulate animals can only cross with an owner.”
“These dogs are starved, traumatized and now stuck in a war zone.” It is obscene. But rescuers are persevering.
The first time many dogs in Lauderdale County, TN, experience abuse is at the shelter that is supposed to protect them from it. An investigation by humane officers found that staff:
Shoot friendly dogs;
Put live puppies in a closet to die;
Leave dogs with urine burns warehoused in tiny cages “in their own feces”;
Illegally ban rescuers who complain; and more.
It is not the first time. “The Lauderdale Animal Shelter was temporarily closed in 2015, and a part-time employee was suspended after a local rescue group found a live puppy in a freezer.” Despite past and ongoing neglect and abuse, “Lauderdale County Mayor Maurice Gaines said he didn’t know about any puppies being left in a closet and said 99% of the claims made against the shelter were false.”
Likewise, in Laurens County, GA, the state shut down the pound as it investigated allegations by rescuers and others that staff was starving dogs to near death. In one case, a dog was so emaciated that he had to be rushed by his rescuer to the emergency veterinarian.
These are YOUR animal shelters. The ones that blame YOU for the killing.
But change is possible. The new director at Oakland Animal Services in California reports that the number of dogs and cats killed has declined to its lowest levels: 7% for dogs and 8% for cats. Although this data is pandemic-related, this is a far cry from where it was recently when the pound was sued (and lost) because staff “neglected or abused cats and dogs repeatedly.”
In London, a Burger King ditched the meat and went 100% plant-based for a month, serving up the Impossible Whopper, a “chicken” sandwich, a “bacon” cheeseburger, vegan nuggets, fries, cheese bites, onion rings, and non-dairy ice cream. The company called it “a pilot launch to help the chain assess whether to go meatless at other locations.”
Meanwhile, a study found that a vegan diet is healthy for dogs: “almost half the dogs fed conventional meat-based diets required non-routine medication but only a third of the dogs fed vegan diets did so.” Will dogs eat it? “A separate study in 2021 found that dogs found vegan diets just as tasty as regular dog food.”
In a rare action, “A federal judge has shut down” a New Jersey pet food company “after failing to improve sanitation following its latest recall,” the fourth. As a result, the company “can no longer make, distribute or sell products.”
Unless and until more regulatory agencies and courts hold these companies accountable, including shutting them down for multiple violations, periodic but preventable recalls will continue to occur. In one case, hundreds of animals died, and hundreds more were sickened by a company with multiple recalls. Pets are family, and they deserve protection as such.
“Nicholls State University will be the first university in Louisiana to offer a pet-friendly residence hall option.” Returning students will be allowed to move into the dorm with their dogs and cats.
Out of the shadows and into the sun. Dogs identified as “pit bulls” are welcome again in Manchester, TN.
Banning dogs based on how they look is immoral. It is also ineffective. That’s not just opinion; it’s science:
50% of dogs labeled as pit bulls lacked DNA breed signatures of breeds commonly classified as pit bulls;
Dogs targeted for breed discriminatory laws are not more likely to bite, do not bite harder, and such bans do not result in fewer dog bites or bite-related hospitalization rates;
Enforcement is expensive with no measurable impact on public safety; and,
Bans also negatively impact surrounding communities and rescue groups who have to take on the burden of such regressive and selfish policies to save the lives of these dogs.
“When a city has a breed-specific ban, good dogs die. It’s that simple.”
The Trenton, NJ, city council terminated its contract with a private group to run its pound. Prior to the current group taking over animal services, the pound not only had one of the highest kill rates in the state, it routinely broke the law and committed animal cruelty. With no plan in place, the Mayor asked the state for assistance, but it is not clear whether it will do so. Trenton, NJ, has a well-deserved reputation for corruption and mismanagement, and, tragically, innocent dogs and cats are paying the price. Thankfully, rescue groups stepped up to the plate to save many of the animals.
April 10th was the 156th anniversary of the founding of the nation’s first SPCA — the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals — by Henry Bergh, effectively launching the humane movement in North America. He immediately went to work: “Day after day, I am in slaughterhouses; or lying in wait at midnight with a squad of police near some dog pit; through the filthy markets and about the rotten docks; out into the crowded and dangerous streets; lifting a fallen horse to his feet, and perhaps sending the driver before a magistrate; penetrating dark and unwholesome buildings where I inspect collars and saddles for raw flesh; then lecturing in public schools to children, and again to adult Societies. Thus my whole life is spent.”
Redemption — my documentary about the No Kill revolution in America — features his life, his life’s work, how the ASPCA and the movement he founded lost their way, and the effort of No Kill advocates to reclaim his vision.
We also celebrated my dad’s 103rd birthday on April 12. Still going strong, my dad is an animal lover who never met a critter he didn’t like, with a soft spot for cats and little birds. But the softness hides a hardened resolve, and he often battled our neighbors who did not take kindly to his feeding them. He rarely backed down, once telling a neighbor who complained that the birds were pooping on his roof that the roof would be around long after any of us were, and more importantly, life was hard, and he was committed to making it easier on them. Growing up, there were a thousand and one moments I spent with my dad. Like most of us, there are few I remember with the clarity as that one. I carry it with me to this day.
A No Kill nation is within our reach:
As more people turn to rescue and adoption and more shelters embrace progressive policies, the number of communities placing over 95% and as high as 99% of the animals is increasing:
Delaware County, IN, reported a 99% placement rate for dogs, 93% for cats, and 95% for rabbits and other animals.
Fulton County, IN, reported a 99% placement rate for dogs and 95% for cats.
Brown County, IN, reported a 98% placement rate for dogs and 98% for cats.
Buena Vista and Poncha Springs, CO, reported a 97% placement rate for dogs and 96% for cats.
Marquette, MI, also reported a placement rate of 98% for dogs, 98% for cats, and 92% for rabbits, hamsters, and other small animals.
Marquette is one of the communities highlighted in Redemption.
These communities and national data prove that animals are not dying in pounds because there are too many, too few homes, or people don’t want the animals. They are dying because people in those pounds are killing them. Replace those people, implement the No Kill Equation, and we can be a No Kill nation today.
Food for thought: