Tag Archives: ASPCA

New ASPCA Study Examines The Availability Of Homes for Unwanted Horses in the United States

Standard

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

Simply offering a horse for sale is no guarantee of finding a suitable home for that animal,  even if young and sound.  The process is even more challenging if the horse is older, untrained, or has behavioural or physical issues, or if the economy is poor.  While most shelters and rescues are likely at capacity,  a study conducted by the Research and Development/Community Outreach arm of the ASPCA found that there do appear to be untapped resources that could be called upon to re-home horses within the general public.

The question posed by the study is whether there are enough private homes to accommodate the number of unwanted American horses currently being sent to slaughter.  Using Edge Research to conduct a telephone survey, the researchers attempted to pre-qualify people who would be willing to adopt unwanted horses, determine what characteristics were required of horses to be considered “adoptable” in the respondent’s opinion, and whether potential adopters thought they had adequate resources to keep a horse. The criteria for establishing initial interest was that the respondent currently owns a horse,  has owned a horse in the past 5 years, or is interested in acquiring a horse in the near future.

From the Abstract: “Estimating the Availability of Potential Homes for Unwanted Horses in the United States”

 

“There are approximately 200,000 unwanted horses annually in the United States. This study aimed to better understand the potential homes for horses that need to be re-homed. Using an independent survey company through an Omnibus telephone (land and cell) survey, we interviewed a nationally projectable sample of 3036 adults (using both landline and cellular phone numbers) to learn of their interest and capacity to adopt a horse.

Potential adopters with interest in horses with medical and/or behavioral problems and self-assessed perceived capacity to adopt, constituted 0.92% of the total sample. Extrapolating the results of this survey using U.S. Census data, suggests there could be an estimated 1.25 million households who have both the self-reported and perceived resources and desire to house an unwanted horse. This number exceeds the estimated number of unwanted horses living each year in the United States.

This study points to opportunities and need to increase communication and support between individuals and organizations that have unwanted horses to facilitate re-homing with people in their community willing to adopt them.”

 

The ASPCA estimates that a more realistic, true count is more likely to be about .72 million households. Still, these numbers may not reflect an objective set of adopters though, since people often overstate or overestimate their ability or available resources to care for a horse properly, or their circumstances change after the survey.  Nevertheless, the study results suggest that new channels of communication between potential horse owners and organizations/rescues are needed to grow the horse industry by engaging new audiences and creatively promoting horse adoption.

 

Advertisements

Slippery Is The Slope: A Reader And I Debate The Ethics of Horseback Riding

Standard

dressageOnce in a while I get a response to a blog post that really merits its own stand-alone blog. Lauren sent me a response to my blog addressing the ethics of horseback riding, and while she doesn’t agree with my conclusion, I think she raises some interesting points and introduces several new arguments. So I wanted to present her post, which she took a lot of time to compose, along with my rebuttal arguments.

LAUREN’S POST:

“This is long so please bare with me:

Hi Heather, my name is Lauren and I came across your blog post today while doing some research. I am a soon-to-be graduate of Purdue University, am a vegetarian for multiple reasons, and rode horses for 15 years before changing my entire viewpoint on riding.

I have ridden in both English and Western disciplines and was once a rated member of the United States Pony Club. I have raced barrels, hacked Saddlebreds, ridden in Western pleasure classes, ridden trails, competed in dressage, and jumped cross-country. I have probably ridden over 100 horses (I am not joking) from ponies to ex-racehorses. I have also had many different riding instructors over the years including so-called professional riders. I used to attend the Rolex Three Day event in Kentucky every Spring and thought that somehow my poor (seriously) self would find an opportunity to become a professional eventer with some off-the-track-Thoroughbred I’d bought for $300. Then one day I literally walked away from it all and I have not looked back since.

Eventing extremes

The cross country portion of the “triathlon” is the most extreme equestrian sport, pushing horses and riders often beyond their physical and mental limits.

Last September, I saw an article pop up on my Facebook about the organizers of a three day event changing part of a cross-country course half way through the order-of-go. Apparently many of the horses and riders had been having problems at particular jumps due to poor weather conditions. So I posted the article to my feed with a statement that this was unfair because most of the professional riders at the event were at the end of the running order and would now be riding a different if not easier course than the novice riders that went before them. I got some backlash from fellow riders who said the organizers were correct to look out for the “safety” of the other riders once they realized there were too many problems. I insisted that this still wasn’t fair because the riders at the end were more experienced and should know how to “handle” the poor conditions. Still, there were arguments that this change of course was proper for safety. A little angered, this time I pointed out that the whole sport of eventing is dangerous and horses can die. They do die. I was at Rolex just across the field in 2008 when Lainey Ashker’s Frodo Baggins went down over the now-infamous Flower Basket jump. Horses die in this sport all the time and yet we never once ask the horse if he’d rather not go out there and risk his neck for it.

Britain Grand National Jumps Racing

Jumps Racing is obviously reckless with multiple horse and rider fatalities every year.

So I began to think about this some more. I’m no physicist, but I realized that any time a mistake is made at a jump it is always the rider’s fault. This is due to the fact that the horse is in no way “designed” to carry a rider (living organisms do not have a defined purpose and neither do their parts; see Diamond v. Chakrabarty which alludes to this legally, and check out the NIH’s stance on this). Any minimal shift in the rider’s weight (which is going to happen), shift of the tack (which is also going to happen) or otherwise (a random act of nature, i.e. shifting of wind or terrain) can and will throw the horse off-balance. In addition, any perceived “wrong” move taken by the horse in response to the shifting of his balance or active response to shifts in the rider’s weight are often punished by use of the crop and/or spurs. Typically, what the horse is really doing is making an active judgment of the situation to account for rider error (i.e. the shifting of the rider’s weight). Again, I don’t have science to back me up here, but I would hypothesize that the movement the horse would make on a cross-country course, such as an approach to a jump, would almost always be different from the movements made by the horse with a rider on its back. To complete the example, if you have a horse and rider approach a jump and he suddenly refuses or lunges to the side to go around the jump, he has made a judgment call that he could not safely make the effort without injuring himself. And for this the horse often receives a whack with the whip, a jab of the rider’s spurs, and/or a nasty yank of the reins. The horse made an effort to protect himself – to survive – and he received punishment.

I don’t believe any horse on this planet would go out and run an XC course of his own accord in the absence of a rider. Horses can certainly jump, but I would like to think that they do so out of necessity rather than finding joy in it (I’m not talking about a horse jumping a random log in the middle of the field on his gallop back to the barn for evening chow, which is still technically necessity anyway – jumping the log might be the fastest way to the barn). I know horses a little bit and I had ridden them for many years – I just don’t think they would jump an entire cross-country course without the guidance of a rider for what humans call “fun.”

bounding out of the gate

An average of 24 racehorse deaths every year in the US – approximately 2,000 horses break-down and have to be vanned-off at tracks.

Further, if these event riders have such great partnerships with their horses, why exactly do they need whips, spurs, and/or bits? Some go “nice in a snaffle,” but I’ve seen gags, pelhams, and elevators on the cross-country horse, as well as different lengths of spurs on the rider’s boots and different types of crops in the rider’s hands. I have been to many upper level and lower level cross-country events and at least once I have seen a rider “get rough” with these “aids” in some manner. It isn’t acceptable. We could argue about “good” contact all day, but my question still stands: what are the spurs, whips/crops, and bits for if you have such a good partnership with your horse?

Why would you ever need those things to “communicate” “jump this massive fence at a gallop with me on your back?” Perhaps it’s because in the absence of these “aids” the horse would have a much easier time of saying “no” and there goes the “connection” between man and horse.

I watched the video and read the Tumblr entry you discussed in your post. Based on the definition of “vegan,” a person who follows this philosophy does not consume any animal products for any reason in any manner whether that is strictly for ethical, health, or other reasons. Hence, riding is not vegan because a human being would be taking something from the horse (energy, a place to sit, engaging the horse as a vehicle for transportation, etc.) and the horse rarely gets anything positive from the experience of being ridden. The viewpoint is clear and there isn’t anything inherently wrong with it either. If there is something inherently wrong with not riding a horse because it is unnecessary or unethical or whatever, please enlighten me.

I am not vegan and though I do not ride anymore for the reason that it is harmful to the horse’s well-being, believe me when I say I miss riding horses. I grew up riding and it is something that’s ingrained in my soul for better or for worse. But I have learned that to ride a horse is selfish on my part. I don’t need to ride a horse for any other reason than enjoyment. And when there is overwhelming research to show that riding can harm the horse physically, physiologically, emotionally, mentally, and/or psychologically what reason is there that justifies riding? I do not believe that the research snippets in the video are incorrect even if they may need some more fleshing-out and additional research.

I am vegetarian and I do not necessarily equate not eating meat with not riding. However, I think that equestrian competition is exploitation of the horse for human gain at the cost of prohibiting the horse from expressing free will to not participate (and not be punished for the refusal). Competition impacts the horse negatively in many respects and should not be supported. Absolutely any equestrian competition is harmful to the horse.

British Eventing Horsetrials

There should never be a situation where, if a fence is not ridden or jumped perfectly, the horse does a rotational fall.

Let me take your pet or dog ownership thoughts into account as well. So we say our animals love us, yeah? So same thing as above with the spurs, whips and bits on horses, why do we need leashes and collars for dogs? (I would concede that typically the leash and collar aren’t used in the same manner as the bit and spurs, but that they can be used with severity.) If humans had true partnerships with their dogs (and some do) then we shouldn’t need leashes or collars. When you get down to the bare minimum of the uses for the items used on a horse and the items used on a dog they are each used in a manner consistent with control of the animal. The leash and collar keep the dog from running off and the bit, whip and spurs force the horse to do our bidding when we get on his back.

Further, just because horses could carry 25% of their bodyweight on their back (by what study by the way?) does not mean it is designed to do so. Again, living beings are not designed for a purpose. Do you even know exactly why you exist on earth? I can’t even pretend to know that. Studies have also shown that when a horse bares a rider on its back for more than 15 minutes of work this can cause the horse immediate soft tissue damage and pain. If you know of a study that cleanly refutes this please post it. Please refer to the Nevzorov Haute Ecole’s website for information on the study I noted here.

While “going for a trail ride” hardly sounds like abuse, if the horse doesn’t have a choice in the matter then this doesn’t make it ok. Just because you don’t think you’re harming the horse does not mean that you aren’t. If you love and cherish your horse why would you take this risk?

In the “death to carnism” blog, the author does not advocate turning horses loose in the wild. The author states that this would be irresponsible. That is another discussion for another time as well.

You’re right about humans harming other animals no matter what considering the world we live in, but this is not a free pass to just hop on a horse and ride it. That’s a hypocritical point Cavalia Odysseo Horseof view. If you know you are harming the horse, why would you ride it? If you don’t know, you shouldn’t ride, and you should study-up.

Just because PETA thinks it’s ok to ride horses does not make it suddenly ok to do so. This organization has been discredited on many fronts for many different reasons. Take a look at this Huffington Post opinion piece from 2013 if you are certain you support them: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/nathan-j-winograd/peta-kills-puppies-kittens_b_2979220.html. (I am not saying they are entirely horrible because I really just don’t know. But I’m willing to bet since the Huffington Post still has this up on their website they haven’t lost a lawsuit on facts.)

Finally, if we humans must abide by “consent,” as in, “no, means no,” but we do not afford this to other animals for one reason or another than as humans we are taking a step backwards. No one being is superior to others – they all need to exist for this planet to be whole. In addition, though I am not a representative for Alexander Nevzorov’s Haute Ecole, I understand that while he did ride horses for a while he did so without the use of any restraint of the horse’s head. Since that time he has expressed that he feels riding is unethical altogether and does not teach riding or condone it. Instead he teaches a way to have a meaningful relationship with the horse on the ground without pain or force at all.”

Tack room for the lippizaners 2MY RESPONSE:

First I think we need to define what veganism is – the practice of abstaining from the use of animal products. Some vegans have taken to extending their philosophy in all manner of ways in which the originator cannot have foreseen.  I can’t imagine how we can consider the “energy” of a horse as a product of that animal unless that is what one understands to be covered by “ethical veganism.” Vegetarians on the other hand, still consume some animals products, including dairy, eggs, cheese, gelatin, honey, etc. I have to say honestly that I am baffled as to why taking “energy” from a horse seems to be so objectionable to you while consuming dairy or eggs is apparently less so. The demand for dairy has very tangible effects on the cows and calves in that industry, and chickens suffer immensely to produce eggs, much more easily measurable and quantifiable than any presumptive abuse to horses resulting  from conventional riding.

I do want to affirm a lot of what you’ve written about various horse sports being cruel or inhumane to horses. I do agree that the cross-country phase of eventing at both the international level or at Pony Club are highly dangerous, along with other “sports” such as racing, rodeo, chuckwagon races, jumps racing, and numerous cultural events are all either blatantly cruel to horses or stretch them beyond their reasonable capabilities. I wrote more about the broad abuses of horses in another blog post.  Cross-country courses challenge horses with drop fences, where the horse can’t anticipate that he has to leap straight down, and water jumps compel horses to jump then while not knowing the depth. Until recently, obstacles did not break-away, causing serious falls and injuries (if not death) to both horse and rider. Courses are, IMO far too long and even when horses are matched to an ideal course, they can only run and jump for so long before they are exhausted or injured. Any event where you have significantly less than 100% of the participants fail to complete a course is too strenuous and risky.

We know that not all high-level riders in all disciplines ride with empathy, as shown in the following video:

I don’t agree with you that whenever a mistake is made on a course it is rider’s error. Even a correctly balanced rider’s weight causes the horse to strain to overcome gravity. The horse needs greater impulsion to clear the weight over the fence, possibly over-extending himself on the other side of the jump. A tired horse builds up lactic acid in his muscles and is more likely to sustain injury. Horses can also dehydrate and tie-up even with the most competent riders. I did actually link to a study in the original blog post that concluded that healthy, fit horses could comfortably carry up to 25% of their body weight (saddle and rider) which supports my contention that horses are not physically compromised by the weight of most riders. The ability of an animal to lift weight (whether ant, cockroach, or horse) is determined by the relationship between surface area and body mass. Ants can also lift 50 times their own weight even though they might not need to. Obviously, other factors to consider in matching the horse to the sport are size and weight, condition, fitness, conformation, attitude, ability of a saddle to distribute weight properly, ability and weight of the rider, distance travelled while riding, type of terrain, and temperature/weather conditions.

lipizzaner in stall with marble basinWhips, spurs and bits are not automatically torturous. I don’t use spurs and I don’t think most riders do either.  I don’t use a whip except in driving where it must be carried in case the horse backs up into a hazard such as a car, child, or edge or a ravine. The driving whip is used to take the place of the leg aid and is used to signal that a bend is asked for or a change of direction is forthcoming. The floppy end of a driving whip taps the horse with the same pressure as flicking a shoelace on your arm. And if you’re going to have a bit there is a range that are considered good and humane by most riders and clinicians. I don’t believe that halters cause a horse any pain. Most higher level dressage riders use spurs subtly, but their use by less skilled riders is apt to be punitive or abusive.

You claim that there is overwhelming research that riding harms horses “physically, physiologically, emotionally, mentally, and/or psychologically?” You didn’t provide any evidence for this to prove your point. I have seen some vegan sites post a link to research that consisted of evaluating a horse’s back for Kissing Spine, otherwise known as impinging spinal processes in the back, which is largely congenital. One vegan blogger cited it as a condition she assumed was directly caused by riding. I tried to correct the assumption, but it seems she was too cowardly to moderate my post. Impinging spinal processes need to be evaluated to determine whether a horse can be ridden, and as you know, horses will absolutely tell you when they are in pain.

Humans are self-legislative, morally autonomous beings. It does not follow from this that we are morally free to do anything we please to animals. However, if we required permission from Cavalia carouselan animal to take any action on their behalf then we could not spay or neuter them, walk them on leashes for their own safety, nor could we anaesthetize them to clean their teeth, vaccinate them, keep them on leashes safe from traffic, trim their hooves, or euthanize them when terminally ill. If we choose not to do any of these things because we don’t have permission, then we’re missing the point of being ethical and compassionate human beings.

Alexander Nevzorov is simply another clinician, one who has attracted a cult following. Quite frankly, he makes my head explode. Because he has attracted extremists, he thrives in that environment and turns off people who are interested in his methods but not the extremist attitude. He and his followers won’t allow discussion of other methods. He is in favour of abolishing equine use (and equines) period. There are a number of other things that Nevzorov is also quite strident about that do not fit with my concept of good and ethical horse welfare. His videos depict all the worst aspects of riding that many horse people would like to abolish – racing, rollkur, over-horsed riders balancing themselves on the bit, sometimes with nervous, perhaps improperly trained horses, rodeo, etc. The videos imply that this is the norm.

Nevzorov and his wife are even opposed to improvements in horse sport because to them it means they won’t be able to abolish it as soon as they would like. This is rather comparable to being opposed to the discontinuation of gestation crates for pigs while waiting and hoping that people will stop eating meat. They are opposed to the use of the Dr. Cook bitless bridle. They also have no interest in rescuing horses, possibly since they feel that the sooner horses become extinct as a species, the better. They are opposed to any breeding of horses at all, which again means in their world the domesticated horse is an extinct horse.

You make the assumption that before he stopped riding horses he rode without confining the horse’s head with a bridle. This is not true. Nevzorov rode horses in the traditional manner with saddle and double bridle. There are numerous pictures of him on the web using traditional horse tack which often included whip and spurs. What most of his followers don’t know is that the horses you see him performing with were all trained traditionally under saddle and with a double bridle, whip, and spurs.   If he can accomplish the same level of training with a totally green horse and without resorting to any other methods but what he’s condoning now, I’d be impressed. While I agree with many of his statements about whips, harsh bits, rough handling, etc. he claims to have taught his horses to understand Latin (which is really a written rather than spoken language). This is crackpottery of the highest order.

Horse with RibbonsFew if any people will listen to him and quit riding horses to work exclusively in hand with them. No one will pay to board a horse only to walk it on a lead, thinking they can teach it Latin. No one is going to build an arena and house horses in it to watch them self-collect. Amazingly though, Nevzorov, his wife and their followers all believe that the equine industry would continue on and develop in the same way, but with non-ridden horses. He also claims that it is “legally acceptable to claim moral damage which is caused to children, who’s mental health is endangered while participating in “sport activities” which considers the cruel treatment of a living being to be normal.”

PeTA’s endorsement of horse riding is relevant since they are probably the most radical of the major animal rights/welfare groups (ASPCA/HSUS/MFA etc). Some of Nathan Winograd’s Huffington Post pieces have been shared over 100,000 times by many people who never question the veracity of his claims about PeTA. The “PeTA Kills Animals” phenomenon was a hoax perpetrated by the Center for Consumer Freedom, a deceitful outfit that protects the interests of animal enterprise industries. They created the hoax to mitigate PeTA’s impact on their meat and biomedical industry clients’ profit margins. Not so admirably, others have jumped on the “PeTA Kills Animals” bandwagon to mitigate that organization’s impact on their agendas. Nathan Winograd falls into this category. Rather than address head-on PeTA’s concerns about dangerous and ineffective “No Kill” initiatives, Winograd uses the “PeTA Kills Animals” meme to change the conversation. Unfortunately, for animals in many “No Kill” shelters and rescues, PeTA’s concerns that the “No Kill” movement is causing them harm appear to be valid.

Nezvorov

Alexander Nevzorov back in the day when he rode horses, using a bridle, dressage crop, and spurs.

The “Why PeTA Euthanizes” website has compiled detailed information on PeTA euthanization and exposes Nathan Winograd as someone who takes liberty with the truth. Indeed, Winograd spends far more time critiquing other animal welfare organizations than he does in promoting No Kill. It’s a fact that nearly every animal PeTA has euthanized was admitted into their care by their owner. Virginia (home of PeTA’s shelter) shelter stats are public information. PETA’s shelter reporting data is freely available online, despite Winograd’s classification of these records as “secret.” This shelter is one of last resort and they offer no-cost euthanasia in the impoverished area their shelter serves. This video, produced by PETA last year, goes into quite some detail about the animals they served in their shelter in 2013. Mary Tully, the curator of the “Why PeTA Euthanizes,” site, writes:

“The small, hands-on facility at PeTA’s Norfolk headquarters isn’t a traditional animal shelter, but by comparing it to one, PeTA’s detractors are able to make it seem like PeTA’s euthanasia “numbers” are very high and somehow very bad. PeTA’s shelter operates for the primary purpose of providing no-cost, humane, veterinarian-supervised, medical euthanasia to suffering community animals who require it. This service is offered on an emergency on-call basis only, and it’s not advertised in any way.

PeTA’s Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services animal reporting data and shelter inspection reports confirm that nearly every animal PeTA receives for euthanasia is received from his or her guardian for this service. There is no indication that these guardians aren’t acting in their animals’ best interests by requesting this service from PeTA’s shelter, or that it’s in any of their best interests not to be immediately euthanized.

Though Virginia veterinarians may offer the service of owner-requested euthanasia to the public, the fees are simply out of reach for many Hampton Roads citizens. The average cost of veterinarian-provided euthanasia in the area, as of this writing, is $25 per pound of animal body weight, not including additional costs for cremation services. Affordable Veterinarian Services of Virginia’s fees start at $295 for the procedure itself, with an additional fee of $132 for their cremation service.

Prince Harry excessive spur use

Polo is another extreme sport – here, Prince Harry draws blood with his spurs.

Virginia’s State Veterinarian, Dr. Dan Kovich, DVM, MPH, acknowledged the gap, during our recent interview. “There are several communities that are underserved by veterinarians, or don’t have access to a veterinarian at all,” Kovich stated. “Shelters that offer owner-requested euthanasia are providing a valuable service to the community,” he further explained.

Most of PeTA’s community work involves helping to improve the quality of life for outdoor dogs and keeping community animals who are in good homes, in those good homes. PeTA served over 6,000 outdoor dogs last year in ways that were meaningful to them. Because PeTA never takes custody of those animals, they aren’t accounted for in their state animal reporting data. Neither are the over 11,000 community animals PeTA spayed and neutered last year in their free and low-cost mobile clinics. PeTA served over 17,000 animals in 2013 who went on to have happy, healthy lives, but because they don’t appear on the animal reporting summaries, they’re unfairly absent from conversations about the work PeTA does.”

Winograd was so deceptive in his HuffPo articles on PeTA, that he was served with a Cease and Desist letter. Similarly, another Huff Po Blogger who wrote extensively and critically of PeTA, Douglas giant shire horsesAnthony Cooper, also acknowledges receiving a C&D. PeTA also took action against posters hiding behind anonymous profiles libelling them on HuffPo, which may have contributed to HuffPo’s decision to abandon anonymous commenting on their site in favour of the Facebook social plug-in. In short, there is little reliable information about PeTAs practices to be found on the Huffington Post at all.

So Lauren,  my belief is that one should ride lightly, cue as lightly as possible, less is more, and critical thinking needs to be employed when reading these articles. When people specialize in extremism, they expend massive energy in conflict with other groups who are quite close to their ethical position: they are fighting over the little things, and losing the battle against the rest of the world. This is true for both Nevzorov and Winograd. I don’t know about Nevzorov,  but try politely disagreeing with Winograd on his Facebook page and he will lecture and then ban you immediately.  That’s one reason Parelli and Rashid and other clinicians are so successful – we may not like all of their teachings but they preach to the middle of the roadists. Whoever captures the middle ground will have the greatest support base and opportunity to improve conditions for horses. The extreme groups are left to fight over the margins. Nevzorov and Winograd both have valid points, but I’m not interested in personality cults.

Cheers,  He@ther

Vegan Pets: An Unscientific Dogma?

Standard

Cat looks intently at goldfishWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

When meat-eaters ask vegetarians or vegans how we get our protein or nourish ourselves without meat, we can confidently refer them to the Position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada on Vegetarian Diets“Well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life-cycle including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.”

But pet cats and dogs share a common ancestry and belong to the order Carnivora. The very definition of a carnivore is an animal that consumes a diet consisting wholly or almost exclusively of meat. Carnivora includes domestic cats and dogs, ferrets, lions, raccoons and even the giant panda, which is herbivorous. Carnivores are well-suited to a hunting lifestyle. Most members of Carnivora are superb hunters possessing sharp teeth and eyesight, a well-developed sense of smell, and sharp claws. Dogs differ from cats in that they are not strict (obligate) carnivores but are more omnivorous. One of the most complete studies of the daily nutrient requirements for dogs and cats currently available is the 424-page Nutrient Requirements of Dogs and Cats. When considering whether to feed a cat or dog a vegan diet, that reference is especially useful. It acknowledges that there is far greater latitude in ingredient selection for dog foods and quite feasible that they contain no animal products. However, the same is not true for cats, since strict vegan diets, when fed alone, are not nutritionally adequate even though it’s possible that cats will find them palatable. All commercial dog and cat foods should also adhere to the AFFCO nutrient profiles for cats and dogs.Prey drive

Vegans and vegetarians naturally want to refrain from contributing to animal cruelty by feeding pets meat-based diets. But the pet food industry exists as a by-product of the meat industry itself, and that industry shows no signs of discontinuation. Some people feel that the term “by-product” used as an ingredient in pet foods means that it is of low value or garbage that is not fit for human consumption. It is true that much of the content of pet foods comes from the “4-D Animals” – downers, the dead, the diseased, and dying animals. Pet foods also contain less palatable parts of animals that people do not want to eat. This includes some organ meats, intestines, lungs stomachs, legs, limbs, and sinewy parts etc. What makes “human grade meat” is in large part a culturally based aesthetic rather than anything practical. In other words, we choose not to eat many perfectly edible organ meats or other body parts simply because they gross us out.

Mystery meat close-up shotAs repugnant as we may find all these things, the reality is that cats, dogs, and ferrets can handle greater microbe burdens in their food, most of which is killed by the cooking process. In any case, carnivores or scavenging carnivores (like dogs) would all eat these same body parts in the wild, but probably in less hygienic conditions than those found in a cooked food.

So the question to feed vegan diets to cats, dogs, and ferrets really becomes an ethical concern. We want to have carnivores as pets, so should those carnivores be compelled to eat a diet without animal products even though making one that is nutritionally appropriate is difficult, and some of them may have to subsist on an inadequate diet? We domesticated them, invited them into our homes, and are now faced with the decision – are we trading one kind of animal welfare for another?

Observations About Dogs, Cats, and Other Carnivores In General

Domestic dogs (canis lupus familiaris) diverged from wolves (canus lupus)about 100,000 years ago. Their diets are predominantly meat, but they will eat non-meat foods such as vegetables and fruits. They do however, have some issues breaking down carbohydrates and cellulose in their guts.

Neither dogs, cats, nor ferrets produce amylase in their saliva, which starts the break-down process for carbohydrates and starches. Amylase is something that omnivores and herbivores produce, but not carnivorous animals. This places the burden entirely on the pancreas, forcing it to produce large amounts of amylase to cope with the cellulose and carbs in the plant material. The carnivore’s pancreas does not secrete cellulase to split the cellulose into glucose moleculFerret dentitiones, nor have dogs become efficient at digesting, assimilating and utilizing plant material as a source of high quality protein. Herbivores do those sorts of things.

Dogs, cats, and ferrets have the internal anatomy and physiology of a carnivore.   They have impressive, sharp teeth designed for grabbing, ripping, tearing or shearing meat – all adaptations for a prey-based diet. They do not have large flat molars for grinding up plant material. They have a short gut and smooth colon, which means that food passes through quickly. Plant matter though, needs time to sit and ferment, which translates to having a longer colon, as humans possess.

The carnivorous nature of the cats’ (felus catus) diet has lead to very specific metabolic differences that show up in their nutrient requirements. These differences make cats (and ferrets) “obligate” carnivores, meaning that they rely on nutrients in animal tissues to meet their specific and unique nutritional requirements and that some level of animal meat is required in their diet for survival. Specific nutritional idiosyncrasies of the cat includes increased protein requirements, as well as the inclusion of arginine, B12, vitamin A, methionine, lysine, taurine, carnitine, choline, and arachidonic acid. Taurine, arginine, arachidonic acid, along with vitamin A and other nutrients, are all found in animal meat and are either completely absent or found at much lower levels in plant material. The reality is that while dogs can utilize plant material and eat vegan diets, neither dogs,  cats,  nor ferrets bodies are designed to eat only plants as are herbivores.

Studies and Articles on Vegan Pet Foods

There aren’t a lot of studies on the long term health effects or appropriateness of vegan foods for pets. There are no long term studies that I could find (10+ years or the life of the pet). Therefore, feeding pets vegan diets amounts to in-home animal testing.  There are however,  shorter term studies and articles available,  authored by veterinarians and veterinary nutritionists:

  • Veterinarian Lorelei Wakefield’s peer-reviewed study, published in the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association “Evaluation of cats fed vegetarian diets and attitudes of their caregivers,” found that taurine levels were low in all the cats, but not critcally so. Dr. Wakefield is a vegan who owns a cat who eats meat-based prescription food.
  • The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals says: “The nutritional needs of dogs and cats are very different. Dogs are omnivores and can do well on either meat-containPrey drive 2ing or vegetarian diets, while cats are strict carnivores with very precise nutritional needs.”
  • The US National Research Council released dietary guidelines for Cats and Dogs in 2003 “Cats are descended from carnivores, and their gastrointestinal system is well-suited to digesting and absorbing nutrients from animal-based proteins and fats. They should not be fed a vegetarian diet because it could result in harmful deficiencies of certain amino acids, fatty acids, and vitamins.. Although dogs may prefer animal-based food, they can survive on a vegetarian diet as long as it contains sufficient protein and other nutrients..”
  • Vegan vet Armaiti May advises having a vet monitor your cat’s urine pH, rather than doing it yourself.
    Animal Voices (Toronto) covered this topic in 2006 with a round table discussion, involving two local activists whose cats fell seriously ill on a vegan diet
  • Gray, et. al., published in JAVMA (Journal of American Veterinary Medical Association)Nutritional Adequacy of Two Vegan Diets for Cats. The study showed two commercially available vegetarian cat foods (Vegecat KibbleMix and Evolution canned diet for adult cats) to be deficient in several key nutrients.
  • Veterinary nutritionist Dr. Julie Churchill says a vegan diet can eventually cause eye lesions and heart valve problems in cats.
  • One survey conducted by PETA found that 82 percent of dogs that had been vegan for five years or more were in good to excellent health and that the longer a dog remained on a vegetarian or vegan diet, the greater the likelihood that the dog would have overall good to excellent health. The study, however, also found that vegetarian dogs may be more prone to urinary tract infections as well as a form of heart disease known as dilated cardiomyopathy, which can be caused by a deficiency of the amino acids L-carnitine or taurine.
  • Cats tend to form struvite crystals and stones if their urine pH is too low as a result of lower than required protein.  Urinary blockage risk is increased.  Male cats are especially at risk due to having a narrow urethra.

Dinner is servedFrom these studies I can see that vegan food for pets must be supplemented, which begs the question – how natural can it possibly be? The logic behind claiming that an obligate carnivore like a cat or ferret is healthiest if fed a vegan diet seems rather indefensible to me. And it’s certainly not without some degree or risk for dogs either. While a manufacturer’s statement that thousands of healthy and long-living animals are on their diets is interesting, additional information is needed to support the diets’ nutritional adequacy.

Highly Questionable Claims by Vegan Pet Food Manufacturers

Unfortunately, some pet owners seem to be endorsing what former chiropractor and Evolution Diet pet food CEO Eric Weisman regurgitates about vegan cats. He is often touted as an expert in nutrition even though he was not, as far as I could determine, a medical doctor or veterinarian of any sort. Some of his more outrageous claims about vegan foods and pets are found variously on the internet, where he is prone to making many unsubstantiated claims, including the following (in reference to the Evolution diet):

  • “Dogs Live to be 21”
  • “Cars live to be 22”
  • “Ferrets live to be 13 ½”
  • “Evolution Pet Food reverses late stage cancer in dogs and cats, even in those near death.”
  • “Vegan diets reverse organ failure”
  • “We are observing up to a 40% increase in life expectancy with Dogs and Cats in Human Family Homes.”
  • “Wild animals are ground up in pet food”
  • “…treats joint, vascular, autoimmune diseases, liver – kidney disorders, cancers, and other internal diseases in sick animals”
  • “Meat, poultry, and fish contain radioactive ingredients”
  • “Evolution pet food will clear any opacities from a cat’s corneas”
  • “Cats are kinder and more loving on a vegan diet” (I suspect that a cat with a conscience would probably not be a cat)

Weisman’s biography describes him as a “former human physician” and a physician in private practice. Instead, he appears to have been a Dr. of Chiropractic, which is not a medical doctor. Along with his education at Ryerson, University of Wheres the beefToronto, and McMaster, he cites 2 Diplomas including a “Doctorate in post-graduate Health Sciences” at what is now Northwestern Health Sciences University in Minnesota. I have no idea how a diploma is also a doctorate. Northwestern Health Sciences U is a chiropractic and massage therapy school. According to news reports, he faced 58 charges, including practicing human and veterinary medicine without a license and animal cruelty and plead out to some of those charges.

Weisman has made this food for approximately 2 decades but hasn’t yet published any proof of his claims. By Weisman’s account, there is no “national test data” either.  I could not locate any veterinarian testimonials on any of his sites. Of course, any “studies” Mr. Weisman refers to don’t actually exist, or are simply anecdotal comments from purchasers of his pet food. Where he ran in to trouble with the chiropractic board is when he started reviewing his client’s pets blood chemistries, analysis upon which he’s not qualified to render any opinion. The chiropractic board was hearing complaints that Weisman was keeping his pets in the office, and sometimes did his chiropractic treatments covered in animal hair and without washing his hands. Further compounding his problems with the board, Weisman’s website began offering $50 packages to treat cancer, kidney failure, and dementia, not including the price of up to $275 worth of vitamins and supplements. For $100, pet owners could buy a “Heart Disease Emergency Treatment Plan” that included a 24-hour emergency pager number for Weisman. For one client, Weisman recommended a dog receive caffeine enemas for lymphoma.

Ferret instinctListening to the various podcasts he appears in, he does give a lot of veterinary advice even after being reprimanded for doing exactly that. His soundbites are filed with “woo” from start to finish. On his own site – www.weismannutrition.com, he claims he is a scientist. He cites such terminology as “The World’s Most Advanced Nutrient-Metabolite Procedures for Cancers, Organ Failure, and Systemic Infectious Diseases.”  Seriously? What’s a “nutrient-metabolite procedure” and how does it cure or treat infectious diseases?  Weisman can’t seen to stop practicing medicine without a license.

In a very revealing and highly entertaining exchange, Eric Weisman runs up against a vegan interviewer with a PhD in Biochemistry, who also isn’t sure what a “nutrient-metabolite procedure” is either,  and isn’t afraid to ask him hard questions about his convictions or his claims about his pet food. Weisman doesn’t respond to the really difficult questions, and sends the interviewer, Ian McDonald,  a vegan himself,  a nastygram after claiming that he is merely a misunderstood visionary, which is an oft-repeated claim by people selling quackery.

In addition to all the above, in 2003 a recall of Go! Natural pet food was conducted due to a number of cases of acute liver failure associated with the food. The underlying cause was never found, but the company manufacturing the food continues to tout it as healthier based on claims about “good” and “bad” ingredients very similar to those made on the Evolution Diet site. Simply claiming something is healthy and natural provides no assurance that it is safe or healthy.

Vegan pet food promoters often sell their food with fear, vague or even fantastical claims. It is the most egregious kind of unfounded fear mongering with no evidence provided to support it.

Even without the unsupportable claims, it’s hard to justify feeding vegan foods to these animals as a mainstay diet. Since I eat mostly vegan, it’s an understatement for me to say that I don’t care for industrial meat production. However, I find inner fishit almost as offensive when any food is marketed by misrepresentation. Since Weisman has made a career out of embellishing the benefits of his food and violating the law, I can’t imagine why anyone would think that a properly balanced commercial meat-based food is a worse alternative than what is being promoted.

In one of the MP3s featuring Weisman, he suggests with-holding food from cats if they don’t want to go vegan. Refraining from feeding cats anything else to eat other than their products in order to force them to eat vegan is cruel, IMO. I can’t personally comprehend how we can stop animal cruelty by feeding a carnivore plant matter – we’re really only substituting one form of cruelty for another by imposing our own ethical principles on a species dependent upon us for their welfare.

Even if we can justify feeding dogs an entirely vegan diet, why would we necessarily want to since it cannot be said that vegetable matter is natural for them. And it isn’t clear yet whether a nutritionally adequate vegan food can be made for cats. It may be possible, but there are reasons to doubt it and there is no evidence that cats can be healthy for long periods of time on such a diet. It amounts to deciding which of your conflicting ethical principles take precedence. Do you do more harm supporting the meat industry or take a chance with an animal companion’s health? It seems to me the most ethically straightforward option for vegans is to choose herbivorous or omnivorous pets.

cat looking at goldfish

Dog Bites Man – Again And Again

Standard

dog-attackWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

I believe in an animal Bill of Rights, and I’m opposed to killing dogs based solely on their appearance, but none of that matters to the Pit bull Advocacy Movement. Dog bites have become one of the most emotionally charged issues that divide animal activists. For some time now, I’ve seen the Pitbull Advocacy Movement (PBAM) privileging the rights of dogs over the rights of human beings and their own pets. by accusing people who are skeptical about the aggression of fighting breeds of being “racists,” ”bigots,” and “breed bullies.”

I’ve had a special interest in this subject matter for a few years now. I’m a dog bite victim – the classic “dog bites man” story, In 2008 I was bitten by a molosser breed dog that I had known for two years. The owner was not irresponsible except in not informing me that the dog had bitten others before me. I was not playing rough with the dog, and the dog was leashed and visiting on my own property. So the hue and cry that only bad ownership or handling of a bully breed is the only possible explanation for a bite would seem to fall flat on its face.  My husband cried like a child – it was the first and only time I’d seen him cry.  This really scared me,  because I hadn’t yet looked in a mirror and had no idea what damage had been done.  The neighbour was crying.  I however,  refused to cry – I felt like someone had to keep it together.  My front teeth were loosened by the impact with the dog’s skull,  my top lip was ripped, and my nose was partially ripped off.  Bites to the face usually also result in a lot of blood loss,  due to the large number of blood vessels and capillaries located there. Later,  I developed two black eyes.  My neighbour cried whenever he saw me for weeks afterward.    Even the neighbour’s homeowner’s insurance company agreed that there’s little defensible when the bite is unprovoked, on the victim’s own property, involved a bite to the face that required plastic surgery, all by a dog that had an acknowledged history of biting people. As a result, the insurance company ruled that the doctrine of scienter applied in my case, and they paid me out for pain and suffering.

The scienter doctrine was developed as, and remains, a form of strict liability. If the conditions for scienter are found, the liability is absolute and does not depend upon proof of negligence.

bred to protect children

No – they were originally bred as dogs to hold animals for slaughter, and later as fighting dogs. There are no “nanny dogs, ” and young children shouldn’t be left in the care of dogs to begin with.  What I find  especially hypocritical about PBAMers is that they will proclaim pit bull types to be “Nanny Dogs,”  but if your child is bitten by the “Nanny Dog,”  they will be the first person to call you a “bad owner.”

Unfortunately, dogs have become a real enemy for the insurance industry. According to the Insurance Information Institute, dog bites accounted for more than one-third of all homeowners’ insurance liability claim dollars paid out in 2012, costing more than $489 million, with an average amount of $29,752 per claim. The Canada Safety Counsel estimates that about 460,000 Canadians are bitten by dogs each year. In addition, several recent high profile dog bite incidents have brought the issue to the forefront of insurers’ minds, with some insurers going so far as to refuse to underwrite insurance for homeowners with certain dog breeds. The PBAM evangelists I’ve encountered are far less concerned with dog bite victims and are more prone to screech “discrimination” when told of this latter finding with respect to their own insurance coverage.

The mandate of the PBAM evangelists has been to persuade the public that pit-bull phenotypes (for the purposes of this blog post – American pit bull terrier, American Staffordshire terrier, Staffordshire bull terrier, American bulldog and any other pure bred or mixed breed dog that is a combination of these dogs) are just like any other dog and any problems with temperament can be laid squarely at the feet of the owner. In order to push pit bulls into private homes, these evangelists rely on the average person’s general unfamiliarity with the heritability of dog behaviour. It is a fact that every breed of dog results from the human manipulation of inherited physical and behavioural traits, and all modern breeds of dog are what we have designed them to be via artificial selection. This blog post is not about presenting pit bulls and pit bull types as evil dogs to be destroyed at will – we know that statistically the vast majority of pit bull type dogs co-exist with people and other dogs without incident. Yet for a breed(s) that represents approximately 6% of the dog population, they commit anywhere from 70 – 90% of all dog bites. And many PBAM advocates consider these statistical truths to be nothing more than poopytalk by dog-haters. So, many of them are engaged in an all-out war to conceal information or hoodwink prospective adopters about these breeds of dog.

narrow3

PBAM’s consistently implicate dog owners as solely responsible for their dog’s misbehaviour. While this is certainly often true, we know from understanding population and bite stats that this cannot be the sole reason for bites and fatal attacks. If pit bull types account for roughly 6% of the dog population while simultaneously committing 70-90% of dog bites (depending on various sources), then there must be another explanation beyond poor dog handling skills. It’s confusing when both professional dog handlers and casual owners recognize genetically predisposed dispositions such as chasing, catching pigs or cattle, killing escaping slaves, chasing foxes down holes, and guarding farm stock, but in the same breath they will tell you that every pit bull down at the shelter is harmless unless it has been raised wrong. To even suggest that a pit bull might come with a different genetic programming than a pointer or a setter is to be accused of “racism.” Which, I might add, is impossible since there are no “races” of dogs. Yet, people will acquire a hunting dog that was bred to kill rats and are then horrified when it displays its genetic legacy by killing a squirrel while off-leash. The dog merely exhibited a behaviour it was artificially selected to do, by man.

Just as we bred pointers to point, retrievers to retrieve, and sheepdogs to herd, we bred fighting dogs. Working bulldogs and terriers were used by butchers to hold and control animals for slaughter. The morphological characteristics of these breeds also meant that they were useful in bull and bear baiting. Dogs used for such activities have a physical conformation suited to the task – including large jaw muscles, necks and shoulders, and a body mass that makes defence against an attack much more difficult.

Naturally, we expect a breed to behave in certain ways because they were or are bred for specific purposes. In the case of selective breeding, the goal for any desired offspring are physical aptitude and inclination to engage in a behaviour. Sometimes conformation is an additional goal.

The inclination to chase prey is probably the aspect of the predation sequence that is most commonly exhibited across all dog species. The complete predation sequence consists of:

  • eye
  • stalk
  • chase
  • grab-bite
  • kill-bite
  • dissect
  • consume

Community dog problemSuch behaviours fall into the ethological category – modal action patterns (MAPS) and these are behaviours that are not learned but fully expressed in the presence of triggering stimulus such as a high-pitched squeal or a sudden movement. Such behaviours can be modified by learning, but they only require a trigger to be expressed. Breeders of hounds select for search behaviours, herding dog breeders want the stalk and chase, but usually not the grab-bite and certainly not the kill-bite and dissect. A dog’s motivation for hunting is separate from his motivation to eat. The fact that optimally raised dogs of any breed can attack suddenly and without prior warning is a testament to the “trigger.”

I strongly suspect that a great many breeders of pit bll type dogs are not breeding for appearance or quiet demeanor. There are many unscrupulous breeders who have bred the most aggressive of their dogs, so other behaviours have not been significantly randomized across the breed. Therefore, we have clustering of negative behaviours in pit bull type dogs. Dogs that are bred specifically for aggressive characteristics and for use in negative functions are abusive to the dog and a nuisance to the general public.

While dogs generally engage in “ritualized” forms of aggression when they come into conflict (growling and posturing but no real damage) when pit bulls fight they engage the grab-bite/kill-bite part of the predatory sequence with often fatal or near fatal results. There is seldom time to intervene to rescue the other dog (or human) before serious damage is done. It hardly helps that pit bulls are often the most abused dogs – they are often emaciated, chained, or forced to wear prong collars. Quite often they are intact. They are occasionally kept in multiples and are often active in breeding for the financial gain of their owners. Dogs maintained in this manner often do not exhibit the same level of sociability as dogs who regularly interact with humans on a daily basis. So there are often other risk factors involved.

The ASPCA describes the characteristics of a Fighting Dog:

  • Ignores signs of submission from other dogs
  • High level of endurance, agility, aggression towards other dogs
  • No warning prior to attack
  • Fight to the death
  • Gameness
  • High pain threshold

PBAM advocates SHOULD be cognizant of these variables, but if they are, they don’t let on. If love and training are all you need, and if aggression isn’t a heritable trait, why do we have such variation amongst breeds? Why is it that we can’t use just any large breed dog as a police dog,  or any dog as a guide dog?

Better examples of PBAM “logic” are rarely seen than in the Animal Farm Foundation’s “Best Practices” Manual for placing pit-bull type dogs. (The countervailing and more commonsense opinion on pit bulls in shelters, written by the ASPCA, can be found here. The ASPCA document acknowledges that the pit bull aka Staffordshire Bull Terrier is a relatively newer breed. As such, it has a much shorter history of being bred as pets).

Eschewing all common sense and reason, the AFF makes the following inflammatory statements:

“Avoid blanket restrictions, such as: No first time owners, breed experience required, fenced yard required, no renters, no adopters under 25”   Whatever could be wrong with adopting a pit bull out to someone without no prior dog experience and without a fenced backyard?

“Like dogs, children are individuals. Let parents decide what’s right for their children and what challenges they are comfortable taking on as a family.” These vapid idiots really do not understand that the whole point of public safety measures is to protect people from themselves.

Avoid blanket adoption policies, such as extra applications, mandatory dog training classes, background checks” Because you don’t care if gangbangers adopt pits so long as it gets them out the door…

If a dog is highly aroused or reactive in his kennel, hang a sheet or other barrier on his kennel door (high enough to block his view, but low enough for adopters to see in). Hang a cheerful sign on the cage that says “I’m friendly, just enjoying some privacy” And if a dog is highly aroused or reactive in his new home, it’s no longer your problem, because you’ve allowed the parents to decide that a highly aroused or reactive dog is somehow right for their children. Pit bulls do have the tools to inflict some serious damage. Plus it seems that most dog owners don’t sufficiently train their animals so everything goes along just fine until the house is full of people and the dog reaches an unnoticed stress threshold.

“Just recently, Nevada Humane decided to partner with NASCAR’s TJ Bell to promote “pit bull” dog adoptions” So the absolute worst person to get a pit bull can get another one.

Rather than focus on why a dog wound up at the shelter, their medical history, or what behaviors they need to work on, keep the information upbeat and focused on what the dogs enjoy doing with people. Disclose all known facts to the new owner, including information received from the previous owner” This second statement seems to be contradictory to the previous statement directly above.

There is not a single reportable appellate opinion in which an animal shelter was found liable for a bite by a dog that it did not own” So, transfer ownership of the dog fully to the new owner before it has a chance to bite anyone while under the care, custody, and control of the shelter.

Dolce and Gabbana

Dolce and Gabbana were two Chihuahuas up for adoption in New Mexico; despite over 900 Facebook shares, they were euthanized due to shelter overcrowding. They had never bitten anyone.

But there will soon be a verdict, if it has not already been rendered, against the Blount County Animal Shelter – accused of not advising a family of a dog’s bite history. The dog delivered life-threatening injuries to a young child. In addition to that case, recently, the Stamford Animal Shelter announced that shelter manager Laurie Hollywood had been fired for rehoming dogs with a bite history. Essentially, she did not do her due diligence in disclosing that history to the adopters. Perhaps she was focused on rebranding the image of pit bulls and the history of the dogs she placed was merely an untidy detail that she felt she could overlook. After a dog was surrendered upon having bitten a child, Hollywood adopted him out without disclosing the bite history. He then proceeded to bite the child in the adoptive family. Not once, but twice. In another incident with a different dog, the dog went on to bite the adopter’s wife. In all these cases, Hollywood did not take a bite report nor did she impound the dogs that attacked humans and other animals over several months.

Pit Bulls represented 32% of US shelter inventory in June 2014.

In another rebranding effort gone wrong, Second Chance Rescue minimized a pit bull’s aggressive traits before handing him over to a New Jersey man for adoption. The dog ended up attacking his two young children. The dog chomped down on his daughter’s leg and nearly tore his son’s nose off just ONE DAY after they brought him home. Seems like the Animal Farm Foundation’s “Best Practice” for allowing the parent to decide prudent exposure to dogs isn’t so great after all, especially when the dog’s history is concealed. As for having your nose almost ripped off, I know what it feels like, and I can hardly wish it on anyone, especially a child.

The rebranding of the breed continues to come at a cost to innocent people. As it gains momentum, it becomes obvious that there is an unhealthy obsession in trying to preserve truly aggressive dogs. Not only pit bulls, but other dogs – a German Shepherd with a demonstrated history of aggression, found himself in a North Carolina animal shelter and was scheduled to be euthanized. Although the dog bit a shelter employee twice, the shelter agreed to adopt him out to a local trainer. Sadly, less than two weeks later, in a public park, he seriously attacked the adopter and two other people before he was fatally shot by police.

pit bull bites

Glad a child lost his ear? I didn’t even want to conceal this person’s identity – their comments are THAT loathesome.

Cesar Millan wanted to save the mastiff cross-breed that killed Diane Whipple. Fortunately he was declined. He also wanted to work with the dog who attacked a small boy in Bakersfield, California. I can only assume that in Millan’s case that ego is the predominant driving force, since most people utilizing a scintilla of reason would probably concur that the most serious of dog attacks against people should result in humane euthanasia for the dog.

And why are aggressive dogs receiving so much attention from people who want to save them, when there are thousands of friendly – or at the very least safe and rehabilitatable dogs dying in shelters every day? I admire people’s dedication to animal issues, but these types of efforts seem so misplaced to me. Mickey is a pit bull mix who first killed a puppy, and then cracked a child’s jaw, eyesocket, and cheekbone, requiring the boy to have months of reconstructive surgery, Despite this, more people were concerned with saving the dog than helping the child. There were over 60,000 people pressuring the shelter for his release. Shelters may feel that they are saving lives, but if the dog kills another animal, there is no net gain in saved lives. If the shelter re-homes a dog that they strongly suspect is dangerous, then they are in effect saying that injury or death to other pets or people is preferable to humane euthanasia.

The epidemiology of dog bites is also widely critiqued by pit bull activists.

The most recent USA survey of dog bites conducted by CDC researchers concluded that in 2001, 2002 and 2003 there were 4.5 million American dog bite victims per year. 885,000 bites per year (all breeds) – almost one out of every 5 – are serious enough to require medical attention. Dog bites send nearly 368,000 victims to hospital emergency departments per year (1,008 per day).  In 2012, more than 27,000 people underwent reconstructive surgery as a result of being bitten by dogs. (Centers for Disease Control, quoting from American Society of Plastic Surgeons. 2012 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report [online]. 2012. [cited 2013 Oct 24). In a study on Mortality, mauling, and maiming by vicious dogs, the authors state that: “…attacks by pit bulls are associated with higher morbidity rates, higher hospital charges, and a higher risk of death than are attacks by other breeds of dogs. Strict regulation of pit bulls may substantially reduce the US mortality rates related to dog bites.”

Most victims of dog bites are not intruders, but children or respectable adults. While most dog bites are not serious, pit bulls are disproportionately represented in serious mauling cases. A innocent child killed by pit bullsCDC report on dog-bite fatalities from 1978 to 1998 confirms that pit bulls are responsible for more deaths than any other breed (the CDC no longer collects breed-specific information). Merritt Clifton has also collated volumes of actuarial information on pit bull bites, and his findings reveal that attacks by pit bulls and their closest relatives still outnumber attacks by any other breed no matter how you spin the data. These are simple facts, and police, public, press, and politicians know it but PBAM elitists can’t or won’t accept statistics for pit bull damage. One of their primary defences is to claim that, unless a dog comes with pedigreed papers or is the known offspring of pedigreed dogs, it can’t possibly be assumed that all these stats reflect injuries by pit bull type dogs. They don’t want you to trust dog geneticists or dog behaviourists either. Definitely don’t trust newspapers.  Oh, and don’t even trust your own critical reasoning skills.

A Tale Of Two Wildies

Standard
Family Picnic,  by Melody Perez

Family Picnic, by Melody Perez – http://www.runninghorses.org

 

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”

These famous lines, which open “A Tale of Two Cities,” hint at the novel’s central tension between love and hatred. Indeed, the subject of opposite “pairs” is one of the major themes of Charles Dickens’ novel.

I’m reminded of both the similarities and differences between the wild horses of Sable Island off the coast of Nova Scotia and those of western Canada. How unequally treated they are in the eyes of the government!  On the one hand, the Sable Island horses are romanticized as being the descendants of shipwrecked horses, while the wild horses residing in Alberta and British Columbia however, not treated with such sentimentality. They are considered to be feral, inbred, and worthless, while spreading parasites and disease to other ungulates in the area. Both groups of present-day horses, however, are descendants of animals brought to these areas in the 1700s. When horses galloped across what would become the US border onto Alberta’s prairies, it was a bit of an overdue homecoming, having been perhaps 10,000 years since the province’s grasslands shuddered under equine hooves. Despite geography, all these horses share a common ancestry, as fossils indicate that North America is the original home of the horse where it first appeared millions of years ago. Yet both groups of horses are viewed in decidedly different fashions, primarily because up to this point, unlike Alberta, there have been no resources of interest that can be easily extracted from Sable Island.

Sable Island Horses tonemappedThe 42 km long, 1 km wide crescent-shaped island, really a large sandbar, is a remnant of the Wisconsin glacial deposit made between 10,000 and 45,000 years ago. The present population of 350-400 horses are the ancestors of horses used in a government operation established to assist ship-wrecked seafarers. The island, located about 290 km off the coast of Nova Scotia, Canada, became Canada’s 43rd National Park in June 2013 – the first national park in the middle of a petroleum field. Perhaps because of this, the Bill to designate Sable Island a national park reserve was very nearly derailed in the House of Commons.

The possible pedigrees of these horses, who generally fall between 13 – 15 hh and range in colour from chestnuts to bays and blacks, with some horses bearing light coloured manes and tales, is unknown, but could consist of a number of breeds popular at the time, including ponies and drafts. Unlike the Alberta and BC wildies who are exposed to interference by people – fertility control, culling, round-ups, etc. the Sable Island horses are among the few wild horse populations that are entirely unmanaged.

It’s important to note that the Sable Island horses themselves are not directly protected, but rather the island itself is, historically under the “Canada Shipping Act,” not surprisingly, since the island is a hazard to marine vessels and the area nearby is a graveyard to about 350 ships and thousands of sailors. This protection is tenuous and exists only as long as the Canadian Coast Guard operates a station there. Since 1801, when the life-saving stations were established, there has been a continuous government presence on the island. In 2008, the Nova Scotia government designated the horses one of the official provincial symbols and they are also the official horse of Nova Scotia. The horses have the same status as other wildlife on the island, such as grey seals, roseate terns and the Ipswich savannah sparrow – undisturbed except where research permits are provided by Parks Canada. Biological samples are only taken from animals that have died of natural causes. Based on meticulous records of which horses have gone missing and how many carcasses have been found, it’s estimated that remains have been found for the majority of the horses that have been on the island for about the past 30 years.

Up to this point there have been no resources of interest to extract from the island itself, although that could change in the future. Because of the reserve status, there is a legal ban on surface drilling on the island, out to one nautical mile. horses on the dunes tonemappedThe designation as a national park reserve still allows for horizontal drilling underneath the island and low-level seismic testing on top of the island. The Sable Offshore Energy Project produces between 400 and 500 million cubic feet (14,000,000 m3) of natural gas and 20,000 barrels (3,200 m3) of natural gas liquids every day. But the government estimates there is $2.4 billion worth of natural gas and oil directly underneath Sable Island. However, it is too expensive to extract those resources with current technology. ExxonMobil, Shell Canada, Imperial Oil and other consortium partners have the exploration rights in the area. Environmental groups say the Bill designating the island as protected is not perfect because it allows for potential future development in and around the island.

In stark contrast to the status of the Sable Island horses, Alberta’s government announced in January it would give out licences to capture 200 of the free-roaming wild horses. There are no restrictions on what may be done with them either – while some could be domesticated, trained and sold to private homes, any others, including pregnant mares, older horses, and infirm horses, can be sold to slaughter.

According to the Ministry of Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development, there are too many horses in the area, and they are competing for resources with cattle (a non-native species) and wildlife. These wild horses inhabit crown land territory of 23,000 km2. That is one horse for every 23 km2. This is very low density. The committee that made this decision included groups with a conflict of interest such as cattle ranchers (one of whom was issued a permit to capture horses), OHV (off-highway vehicle users) and the forestry industry. In addition to pressure by industry, there is also an historical sense of entitlement by certain groups, including hunters, trappers, rodeo suppliers, and outfitters. These groups all claim that roughly 900 or fewer horses have somehow decreased the population of deer and elk. All claim these “feral” horses threaten their use/exploitation of the land and its resources. The Conservative government of Alberta, formerly under Alison Redford, has close ties to the most powerful stake holders, oil and gas, the beef industry and forestry.

Stake holder list:

  • Alberta Equestrian Foundation & Alberta Horse Welfare Alliance of Canada
  • Alberta Farm Animal Care Association
  • Alberta Fish and Game Association
  • Alberta Professional Outfitters Society
  • Alberta Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA has withdrawn from the committee, even though they state that they did not know about it at the beginning, they also had not attended any of the previous meetings)
  • Alberta Veterinary Medical Association
  • Alberta Wilderness Association
  • Capture License Holder
  • Livestock Identification Services Ltd.
  • Rangeland Expert at the University of Alberta
  • RCMP Livestock Investigator
  • Rocky Mountain Forest Range Association
  • Spray Lake Sawmills
  • Sundre Forest Products
  • Wild Horses of Alberta Society
Alberta Wildies tonemapped

Photography by Ken Mcleod

A scientifically valid headcount of the horses has not been done since March 2013, before the flooding last June, and before the heavy snowfall this winter, both of which are believed by horse advocacy groups in the area to have taken a toll on the herd’s numbers. Despite not possessing an accurate count of the horses, the PC government insisted on moving ahead with the cull without a clear objective or enough scientific data to support it. Therefore, the government has operated blindly using misinformation to justify their actions. Various talking heads in government capacities also bizarrely claim that the wild horses have no known predators. There is absolutely no science behind any of their claims of rangeland degradation by the horses. It is a fact that domestic livestock grazing reduces wildlife populations by competing for food, water, and space, and degrading habitat. Habitat degradation caused by grazing also exposes prey species to increased predation (due to lost vegetative cover for concealment and escape), resulting in further declines in those populations. The vast majority of forage and water resources in the West are devoted to domestic livestock grazing.

Ultimately, only 15 horses were captured, despite the covert behaviour of the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Resource Development (ESRD) leading up to the 2014 capture season. By no means did ESRD demonstrate any commitment to the recommendations of a clear and transparent, honest communication amongst all stakeholders, which was tabled at the Feral Horse Advisory Committee. In fact, ESRD repeatedly denied capture permits were issued when numerous inquiries were put to them in the weeks preceding the announcement. Jason Bradley (one of two individuals to whom the original permit for 200 horses was ultimately issued – Brynn Thiessen is the second.  Two other former permit owners declined to participate this year), is on the Steering Committee and was therefore provided with advance information about the issuance of his capture permit so that he could prepare his site in advance, while withholding that information from other members of the Steering Committee and members of the general public. This is a clear conflict-of-interest. Of these captured horses, three mares, possibly heavily in foal, were removed, sold to a third party and apparently slaughtered within a scant few days, despite Alberta Horse Industry (and therefore Canadian Food Inspection Agency) regulations that state that “at least six continuous months of documented acceptable history is required for an equine presented for processing in an establishment inspected by CFIA.”

So,  by an accident of geography, the Sable Island horses are left alone to enjoy their days free from human interference. It’s not that the government values the horses themselves, but unlike the Alberta wildies, they have no reason at this time

Ken McLeod Horses tonemapped

Photography by Ken Mcleod

to disturb them. Now the future of Sable Island and the Station is in question, and the Canadian government is considering various options – one of which is to close the Station, thus ending 200 years of full-time human presence and stewardship. This option, combined with the encroachment of companies who are interested in oil and natural gas exploration would put not only the horses, but all the island’s flora and fauna at serious risk.

You can be sure if gas or oil could be easily extracted from Sable Island,  or the grass growing on the island was found to be of benefit to cattle grazing, then all of a sudden there would be too many horses on the island and a “management” plan would have to be implemented.

Please register your complaints about the handling of the Alberta free-roaming horses with the following individuals/agencies:
Livingston, Don

Land Management / Planning Forester
Land and Range Management
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
2nd fl Provincial Building
4919 – 51 Street
Rocky Mountain House, AB
T4T 1B3
Phone: 403 845-8236
Fax: 403 845-4750
E-mail: don.livingston@gov.ab.ca

Kesseler, Rob

Unit Lead, Integrated Operations
Rangeland Integration Section
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
4th fl Great West Life Building
9920 – 108 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2M4
Phone: 780 422-4568
Fax: 780 422-0454
E-mail: rob.kesseler@gov.ab.ca

Newsham, Helen

Section Head
Rangeland Integration Section
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
4th fl Great West Life Building
9920 – 108 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2M4
Phone: 780 427-4764
Fax: 780 422-0454
E-mail: helen.newsham@gov.ab.ca

Campbell, Robin, Honourable

Minister of Environment and Sustainable Resource
Development, Government House Leader
Members of Executive Council
Executive Branch
323 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2B6
Phone: 780 427-2391
Fax: 780 422-6259

Hancock, Dave,  Honourable

Premier
Office of the Premier
Executive Branch
307 Legislature Building
10800 – 97 Avenue
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2B6
Phone: 780 427-2251
Fax: 780 427-1349
E-mail: premier@gov.ab.ca

Booth, Nikki

Issues Manager
Communications
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
12th fl Petroleum Plaza ST
9915 – 108 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2G8
Phone: 780 427-6233
Fax: 780 422-6339
E-mail: nikki.booth@gov.ab.ca

Sancartier, Carrie

Public Affairs Officer
Communications
Environment and Sustainable Resource Development
12th fl Petroleum Plaza ST
9915 – 108 Street
Edmonton, AB
T5K 2G8
Phone: 780 644-8372
Fax: 780 422-6339
E-mail: carrie.sancartier@gov.ab.ca

 

Legends of the Dance by Melody Perez

Legends of the Dance by Melody Perez – http://www.runninghorses.org

 

 

 

 

Myths, Half-Truths, and Lies of the Commercial Carriage Horse Industry

Standard

Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

In 2007, Bill Thompson, then New York City Comptroller, announced the findings of an audit that cited numerous problems in the carriage horse industry. That same year, Queens councilman Tony Avella introduced a Bill to abolish the carriages outright. Several years later the carriage-horse industry and some of its opponents got together and hammered out a Bill raising carriage fares and mandating larger stable stalls and the five-week vacation for horses. It now became law that the working horses must fall between five and 26 years old, and they have been banned from traversing certain streets and from working from 3 and 7 a.m. But now, the carriage industry, long the subject of controversy, seems poised to end. The deaths and injuries of the horses has prompted New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, to vow to eliminate them completely as part of his campaign promise.

City carriages are romantic

Dense traffic and on a phone

Many people feel that the carriages themselves are at odds with the dense traffic and sounds of the city.  Horses and cars do not mix well and when there is a collision it is always the horse (and passengers) who will be worse off for it.  The carriage trade likes to represent that there have been only three horse deaths due to vehicular traffic since 1985, but there is documentation for many more accidents even in the last few years.  In addition,  several horses died of heatstroke,  and one horse died crashing into a tree,  but the industry typically excludes these from their “death count” because they don’t consider them “traffic related.”  But if a carriage horse dies while in harness and put to a carriage – it is indeed a carriage industry death,  and to parlay it otherwise is just obfuscation on the part of the industry.  There is no law requiring the ASPCA to release the details of carriage accidents and therefore it is impossible to know how many have occurred that have not been directly witnessed or documented by animal advocates such as those working with The Coalition to Ban Horse Drawn CarriagesNYCLASS,  and others.

Since the carriage industry has resisted reform in the past and insists on churning out falsehoods and half-truths, they’re fair game for some myth-busting. Disconcertingly, a small minority of industry supporters are also prepared to malign and harass horsepeople who dare to disagree with their stance.  There seems to be an unwritten rule that carriage drivers in particular MUST support this industry no matter what infractions are observed.  Anti-slaughter proponents will be dismayed to note that the industry, represented by the Teamsters union, have aligned themselves with a few characters from the United Horsemen’s group as well as the anti-animal puppymill promoters and horse-soring defenders, the Cavalry Group.  Working with a group that generally opposes any type of minimal animal protection as a rule will have animal lovers reject your position outright and fail to give you any support whatsoever.

I’ve always had a interest in debunking false lore and hoaxes.  Usually I’ve spent my time debunking pseudo science, near-death experiences, and alien abductions, but the same flaws in thinking/rationalizing that lead to those belief systems can be found elsewhere.  And the carriage horse proponents don’t disappoint!  They continue to be dogmatic in their approach and persist in their beliefs even after shown evidence to the contrary.

1.  Will Bill S5013-2011 Permit the Seizure of the Privately Owned Carriage Horses?

Carriage horse rear

This has the potential to become a bolt by the carriage horse.

Making it so that you cannot operate a carriage in NYC is not seizing your property.  The Bill does not require that horses be sold or donated, but the Bill does define the circumstances under which sale or disposal or the horse shall be deemed humane.  While it does attempt to control what happens to the horses IF they are sold, it does not compel  them to be sold.  The Bill attempts to restrict the sale or donation of a horse to persons or groups who will keep them as “companion” animals and not “work horses,” obviously, in an attempt to keep them from being slaughtered.  It doesn’t seem to bother the fanatical carriage supporters that their new friends in the pro-slaughter Cavalry Group,  who are now handling some questionable public relations for them, would put all their horses in an express lane to the slaughter plants either.

Elsewhere in the Bill the definition of “work horse” is given as one who is presented for paid work as a carriage horse.  “Companion animal” is not defined in the Bill, but there is no restriction given on using the horse personally as a riding or driving horse.  Most animal advocates would understand that a “companion animal” is a horse that is a pet and not considered livestock;  a great many of us will describe our riding horses as companion animals.  There is also a legal definition that describes such an animal as “an animal that serves as a domestic pet,” but goes on to provide examples in case law that may include or exclude horses,  depending on the evidence of the relationship between the animal and its owner.  In any case, there is no need to perpetuate the hue and cry that the carriage horses will be seized,  but it is worth noting that the whole Bill is open to challenge on several issues and is unenforceable outside of New York State.  Although the Bill states that horses would not be “employable” as carriage horses,  I don’t see why a carriage horse could not be subsequently employed as a livery horse outside of high-density city.

Here’s the contentious passages in the Bill:

“B. A horse shall not be  sold  or  disposed  of  except  in  a  humane
manner,  WHICH, FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS SUBCHAPTER SHALL MEAN ONE OF
THE FOLLOWING:
  1. THE OWNER SHALL SELL OR DONATE THE HORSE TO  A  PRIVATE  INDIVIDUAL
WHO SIGNS AN ASSURANCE THAT THE HORSE WILL NOT BE SOLD AND SHALL BE KEPT
SOLELY  AS  A  COMPANION  ANIMAL AND NOT EMPLOYED IN ANOTHER HORSE-DRAWN
CARRIAGE BUSINESS OR AS A WORK HORSE AND WILL BE CARED FOR HUMANELY  FOR
THE REMAINDER OF THE HORSE'S NATURAL LIFE; OR
  2.  THE  OWNER  SHALL  SELL OR DONATE THE HORSE TO A DULY INCORPORATED
ANIMAL SANCTUARY OR DULY  INCORPORATED  ANIMAL  PROTECTION  ORGANIZATION
WHOSE  PRESIDENT OR EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR SIGNS AN ASSURANCE THAT THE HORSE
WILL NOT BE SOLD AND SHALL BE KEPT SOLELY AS A COMPANION ANIMAL AND  NOT
EMPLOYED IN ANOTHER HORSE-DRAWN CARRIAGE BUSINESS OR AS A WORK HORSE AND
WILL  BE  CARED  FOR  HUMANELY  FOR THE REMAINDER OF THE HORSE'S NATURAL
LIFE.
  3. RECORDS INDICATING THE NAME, ADDRESS AND TELEPHONE  NUMBER  OF  THE
PRIVATE  INDIVIDUAL, DULY INCORPORATED ANIMAL SANCTUARY OR DULY INCORPO-
RATED ANIMAL PROTECTION ORGANIZATION TO  WHOM  THE  HORSE  WAS  SOLD  OR
DONATED TOGETHER WITH THE ASSURANCE SPECIFIED ABOVE SHALL BE SENT BY THE
OWNER  TO THE DEPARTMENT WITHIN FIVE DAYS AFTER SUCH SALE OR DONATION. A
COPY OF SUCH RECORD SHALL ALSO BE MAINTAINED AT THE STABLE.”

2.  Quoting Celebrities Does Not Give One’s Point More Authority

Oreo's acident in NYC - here he has been tranq'd

OREO’s accident in NYC – here he has been tranq’d.

Quite a few celebs have stepped forward to either condemn or praise the NYC carriage horse industry.  Neither side is particularly compelling in my opinion, at least, no more so that the average person.  The carriage supporters all loathe celebs such as  Pamela Anderson,  Lea Michele, Kathy Najimy,  and Alex Baldwin,  but they’ve really embraced Liam Neeson, who apparently counts several carriage drivers among his close personal friends.  “They’ll die, you know, darlin,’ The horses are incredibly well-treated. They’re regulated up the wazoo. They get five weeks’ holiday every year.  Tourists love them.”   Along with former Mayor Bloomberg, Neeson also perpetuates the opinion that they’ll all be slaughtered too, and it’ll be the fault of meddling big city liberals,  according to him.  Well if that were to happen, responsibility for that action would have to lie with the owners of the horses and nobody else.

Of all the celebs peripherally involved in the carriage trade, few are more hypocritical than Neeson. I’m calling out Neeson as a hypocrite since he ate the meat of a trapped wolf  to get in character for a role in the movie “The Grey” and then tried to fearmonger about horse slaughter.  If anything,  maybe he should become an anti-trapping spokesperson?  I didn’t realize that actors had to directly experience something like this to be considered a true method actor.  If he needed help to channel his rage for the movie, somebody should have suggested that he stick his hand in the trap instead.   Eating trapped animals, especially for something as trifling as a movie role is not cool.

And since he’s Irish, I hope he also concerned about the fate of horses in Ireland and elsewhere in Great Britain, where it’s popular to race horses on the M4 highways and evade the garda (police),  often crashing the horses and abandoning them, injured.  What about the huge problems with fly-grazing, where horses are illegally grazed on private property without the knowledge or consent of the owners of the property?  Indeed, Ireland has a huge crisis of horses, with up to 20,000 of the animals currently needing immediate intervention by authorities for abuse and cruelty.  But the next time he’s in town and hanging with his buddies on 59th street, perhaps he can get in-character by eating some oats that have been spilled out into the street amongst the pigeon droppings, just for authenticity’s sake of course.

3.  Is the NYC Carriage Trade Really a 155+ Year-Old Historic Occupation Built by Working Class Heroes?

Disclaimer:  The video below is NSFW (Not Safe for Work – due to language. Well,  it may be SFW if you work in an office where the “eff”word gets spit out more than any other word (examples: Bill O’Reilly’s office, Alec Baldwin’s office,  etc…)) Otherwise it’s headphones material. And we should be clear – it is not a criticism of the Irish or of immigrants in general.  I don’t know what if anything preceded it,  but it is not exactly characteristic of the pastoral charm that tourists envision when they think of Central Park and carriage horses.

But over 100 years ago, everyone was driving a horse and carriage in New York.  By the twenties, the horse-drawn carriage had been almost entirely replaced by the automobile.  So the current industry can hardly say that they harken back to those days,  since the current medallion ownership/licensing scheme is much more recent.  It’s rather analogous to saying that the airline industry is 87 years old as a result of Charles Lindbergh’s  flight from New York to Paris in 1927.  While it’s true that many of the carriage drivers (who are employed by the 68 medallion holders) who drive approximately 220 horses could probably be described as “working class,” the business operators in their primarily cash based business (no one knows exactly how much the industry contributes to NYC tax revenue) are hardly in that category.  They own the stables in which the horses reside in NYC and in my opinion, are living quite well. Several of them own more than one lucrative medallion.

It’s unclear what a medallion (license to operate a carriage business in NYC) is actually worth in present value terms. Some drivers said they paid $30,000 for their medallions 25 years ago. So obviously they are worth a considerable sum of money, given what the average income must be for the 68 medallion holders bringing in an estimated $15-$19 million dollars to the economy – an amount that has been corroborated by the Communications Liaison for the Horse and Carriage Association of New York City.  Therefore, to determine how “working class” the industry is as a whole, a little arithmetic can be applied as follows:

$15,000,000/68 medallions = average gross income of $220,588 per medallion owner (low-balling the industry estimate)

$19,000,000/68 medallions = average gross income of $279,412 per medallion owner (applying the upper limit of the estimate)

Not holding onto the reins while getting out of carriage

Getting in and out of a carriage and hitching the horse to the carriage are the most dangerous times. At least hold onto the “reins” – don’t let them fall onto the wheels either. And don’t let passengers get in the carriage when you don’t actually have control of the horse and are not in the box seat!

That’s per medallion,  so if someone or a corporation owns more than one or half a medallion,  the calculations can be adjusted accordingly.  As a comparison,  the NYC tourism industry as a whole, in 2011, brought in about 34.5 billion dollars  Therefore, statements made in some of the glowing pro-carriage trade articles to the effect that the carriages are the main tourist attraction in NYC would seem to be unsupported.

So, in my opinion, the medallion owners, some of whom appear to be corporations or don’t even reside in the US,  are doing very well for themselves and their incomes are hardly typical of what we would consider “working class.”  I’m hardly opposed to any entrepreneur who can earn a comfortable living, but let’s be honest at least about what a “working class” income really is and what it is not.  The medallion owners are contractors or licensees,  and not actual employees of the city.

4.  How Restorative is the Mandated Five Weeks Vacation for NYC Carriage Horses?

There are many reasons why,  in my opinion, this mandated “vacation” isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.  Especially if it isn’t actually a holiday if horses are  sent to Amish country for their R&R,  where they are, unbeknownst to the average person,  used as work horses on farms they are loaned to.

Many drafts and draft-crosses, the breeds typically used by the carriage trade, have some heritable muscle problems, such as equine polysaccharide storage myopathy (EPSM),  which has been confirmed or suspected in virtually every draft horse breed, draft cross-bred,  and draft mule.  The disease is responsible for severe muscle wasting and weakness, causing poor performance and abnormal hind limb gaits.  Afflicted horses benefit more greatly from daily turnout and structured breaks at regular intervals, and not all at once.  If they are furloughed, it also becomes more difficult to treat them for this condition as well, and they may tie-up when they come back to work.  Also, since the vast majority of furloughed horses go to New Jersey and Pennsylvania or upstate NY – disease control may not be optimal when they come back. Also consider that these horses have no grass during the majority of the year – transferring them suddenly to any sort of pasture and onto grass that they are not used to eating can have serious consequences such as colic or laminitis.

This study suggests that pastured horses maintained a similar level of fitness as stalled horses after 14 weeks.  However, the research, by Dr. Patty Graham-Thiers of Virginia Intermont College, involved comparing two groups of horses to horses turned out on a hilly 100 acre pasture.  It could be relevant if the carriage horses were turned out on similar circumstances and property and not standing in small paddocks or sent to work on Amish farms, as has often been cited.  And the study doesn’t exactly support ASPCA Veterinarian Dr. Corey’s comments about furloughing horses, as she has said that when the horses return from furlough, they often look worse than when they first went on vacation – “We have observed some horses returning to New York City after furloughs on a farm in worse condition than when they left.”  If the study concludes that these pastured horses were able to maintain a similar level of fitness as the stalled, exercised horses, in addition to having greater bone mineral content at the end of the study, then why do the carriage horses tend to look worse, in the words of Dr. Corey?  How are they maintained on the “holiday” paddocks?  Or are the draft crosses tendency to have metabolic issues not being addressed?  Or are the paddocks not large enough to facilitate the exercise that was observed in the study? Lots of questions with no answers,  as the horses aren’t monitored while away from the City.

THECAVALRYGROUPimage003-1

5.  How Can an Association With the Cavalry Group Be a Good Thing?

Think “Waterloo” and immediately the phrase,  “catastrophic failure” comes to mind…… On its website, the extreme right-wing Cavalry Group declares that animal rights “extremists” are working to advance a “vegan agenda.”  They have opposed several “animal rights” measures around the U.S., including a ballot question in Missouri to crack down on puppymills and a referendum in North Dakota that would make it a felony to maliciously and intentionally harm dogs, cats or horses. They also oppose the SAFE Act to stop sending American horses to be slaughtered, and they have resisted anti-soring legislation for Big Lick horses, and they resist pretty much any and all efforts to upgrade anti-cruelty laws.  It should come as no surprise that The Cavalry Group is based in Missouri which has the worst puppy mills in the nation. Even the Better Business Bureau refers to Missouri as the “capital of puppy mills in the US.”  Any group that aligns themselves with people who find Big Lick soring in any way acceptable and who mount a charge to OPPOSE the passage of this Bill deserve failure. Here’s a list of what they oppose.

Anti-animal Cavalry Group tweetstorm

Cavalry Group Tweetstorm – where the NYC carriage industry gets infused with Teaparty insanity.

Wayne Pacelle, President of the Humane Society of the United States, added, “It’s a very bad selection by the carriage horse drivers to associate with a group of zealots that oppose the most basic animal welfare standards.”  Utilizing an anti-animal lobbying group shows that they are not the animal lovers that they claim to be and are more interested in promoting the status quo.

The Cavalry group made a laughing stock out of itself the last time it went up to Washington to lobby against HR 1418S  In their “USDA Approved” campaign to resist legislation against horse soring. The Cavalry Group saddled up and put a Big Lick horse, Mr. Heisman, on its poster, and proudly proclaimed he was “USDA APPROVED.” Mr. Heisman is trained by Brandye Mills and he is owned by Randall Baskin. It just so happens that Brandye Mills and owner Randall Baskin have HPA violations! Trainer Mills has been cited numerous times for “foreign substances, scars, unilateral sores, low chains,” etc. on multiple animals.  Violation of the Horse Protection Act is already a crime, so Mills and Baskin are anything but USDA approved.

Just as stupid is the carriage horse association with the various cast-offs from United Horsemen, who live even further away from NYC than I do – several of them parroted false information about colicking Salt Lake City carriage horse Jerry, whose illness and death was concealed for several days/weeks,  unbeknownst to those who personally attested to him being alive,  days after he had died.  This just goes to show that you can’t expect members of the pro-slaughter group United Horsemen to have knowledge of anything that requires them to READ.  If you’re still not sure that the Cavalry Group is anti-animal, check out these ridiculous tweets,  compiled by Buzzfeed and made during their “Tweet Storm” campaign.

6.  Is the Stabling for the NYC Carriage Horses as Adequate as We’ve Been Told?

West Side Livery BEFORE renovation and Clip Clop NYC

West Side Livery BEFORE renovation and Clip Clop NYC

These are NOT pets of the carriage operators – they are tools of a business. By law their stalls must be a minimum of 64 square feet, which is pretty small by most people’s standards unless you own a pony or a couple of minis.  The horses do manage to lie down though, not that they have much room to spare.  But the smaller the stall the greater the risk of getting cast in the stall too.  Prior to conversion,  the West Side Livery stables had standing stalls that made it difficult,  albeit not impossible,  for horses to lie down.  While photographs of the Clinton stables reveal that the operators are very good at managing small spaces,  I don’t believe any of the buildings have sufficiently large enough stalls for these larger breeds of horses.

7.  Are the NYC Carriage Horses Really  “The Most Regulated Horses in the Country, if Not The World?”

This is the same facile argument that pro-slaughter use to justify the continuation of the slaughter industry.  Regulations on the books mean nothing if they are largely unenforced.  Anti-cruelty regulations provide few safeguards for horses, and many humane authorities just don’t have the resources or the time to monitor the carriages in order to ensure that horses are not being overworked and that operators are following regulations.

Furthermore the ASPCA has recently dismantled its Humane Law Enforcement Division in NYC.  Over the past few years, the ASPCA’s humane law enforcement division has handled about 4,000 investigations annually and made about one arrest per week (for all species of animal).  The agents wore uniforms, flashed badges, carried guns, traveled in blue-and-white squad cars, and for years starred in “Animal Precinct,” but now the ASPCA has laid off almost all of its 18 law enforcement agents and is now leaving those responsibilities solely to the New York City Police Department.  Without a team focused on animal abuse, enforcement will almost certainly be given a lower priority by officers dealing with the full spectrum of human crimes.

Horse needs help to riseSince the ASPCA is not obligated to share information about the general health and well-being of the carriage horses in New York, we really have no idea how healthy they are, or are not.  And yet it was not the Teamsters Union, nor the carriage people, or even the ASPCA who spotted a lame horse driven by Saverio Colarusso, but the police, who ultimately charged him with cruelty to animals.  Apparently the horse, who had thrush, had been driven for several days before being spotted struggling.  Now, it’s difficult to keep a horse’s stall entirely dry at the best of times, but thrush is predisposed by moist, damp, dirty stable conditions. But it is treated by scrubbing with anti-fungal/antiseptic and by moving the animal to a DRY stall.  Whoever was cleaning the horse’s feet should have been alerted to the condition by the smell and/or discharge, which makes me wonder how often they all get their feet picked out and how mucky the stalls are.  Several photographs, of the West Side livery in particular, don’t show much of a base of shavings that would absorb a lot of urine.

It’s also not the first time Mr. Colarusso has gotten in trouble either. In 2010, he was charged with drinking while on duty after being spotted with a beer while standing next to his carriage (I guess we should be gratified that a driver was actually standing near their carriage though). Two other bottles of liquor were found inside the carriage. He has also been fined for driving his horse through city streets at unauthorized times, failing to keep a daily log and not turning on the lamps on the side of his carriage after dark.  The urban carriage people sure don’t like to talk about Mr. Colarusso,  because now the fact that he’s been charged is a huge problem for them – they can’t exactly tout that no one in the industry has ever been charged with abuse!  But it was correct procedure to suspend him,  since the horses and tourists both deserve to be driven about by someone who is not likely intoxicated.

What’s also odd is that  Colarusso was arrested by for animal cruelty not by the ASPCA,  but by the police.  It seems probable then that the ASPCA went  easy on the drivers in the past because they had the “protection” of Bloomberg, who is now gone.  Therefore,  it’s not necessarily true that the industry is upholding any great standard,  only that some individuals have never been caught.

Horse looks ready to bite driver

8.  Will a Ban On City Carriage Horses Mean That There Will Ultimately be a Ban on all Privately-Owned Horses?

A classic slippery slope fallacy made by the true property-rights fanatic dedicated to creating a pandemonium that doesn’t exist.  That slippery slope fallacy they love involves constructing a scenario in which one thing leads ultimately to an end so extreme that the first step should never be taken. For example: Eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream will cause you to put on weight. Putting on weight will make you overweight. Soon you will weigh 450 pounds and then you will die of heart disease. Therefore,  eating Ben & Jerry’s ice cream leads to death. If you want to live,  don’t even try it.  And even though horses were declared a dangerous species in Connecticut, it’s not exactly a foregone conclusion that people will rise up to ban private ownership of horses across the continent.  Just because many people don’t want circuses,  aquariums, zoos, rodeos (there are valid reasons to eliminate many aspects of these things), there is absolutely no sign that pleasure horses will be eliminated as some sort of ever-present vegan conspiracy.

9  How Well Can Two Grain Meals During a Work Shift Suffice for Working Carriage Horses?

With the exception of Przewalski’s horses (who have a different number of chromosomes) domestic horses and wild horses are genetically exactly the same animal. That means that the horse living in your back yard or at a stable somewhere is genetically the same as the horse who evolved in the wild and those still living in the wild. It makes no difference that most horses we have were all born in captivity.  Our horse’s genetics are still the same as those horses who roamed across North America thousands of years ago.

GridlockSome people believe that a few hundred years of selective breeding can change all that, but we know that it takes a few thousand years to even begin to change the genetics of any species. Which means the horses in our back yard have been programmed for hundreds of thousands of years to live in wide open spaces where they can see predators coming, eat grass and other forage for 18 hours a day, move 10 miles a day on unshod feet and spend the day with multiple other horses for safety and security.  Of course, it’s not just the carriage horses who live a lifestyle at odds with their genetics – virtually all companion horses do.

We feed them diets of grain and molasses which are converted to sugars once eaten.  The horse’s gut is programmed to release digestive acid around the clock – not just when two small grain meals are offered. It’s a scientific fact that hay is digested by gut microbes and bacteria which generate heat during the process and actually helps keep horses warm.  The problem is that horses working a shift of 9 hours do not get the opportunity to eat hay and are offered a couple of grain meals instead until they return to the stable where they will be given hay.   A horse needs more forage when the temperature drops, so it follows that two grain meals per shift,  especially in winter weather,  will be insufficient. And when grass or hay is not available, stomach acid has nothing to process but the horse’s gut itself, hence a reason for ulcers.

Things that make horses most at risk for ulcer disease are sporadic feeding with periods of an empty stomach, or irregular feeding with long periods of no intake, high starch diets, exercise at speed, concurrent illness, especially of a gastrointestinal nature, and use of NSAIDS,” notes internal medicine specialist Carol Clark, DVM, Dipl ACVIM, of Peterson & Smith Equine Hospital in Ocala.

Charlie, a middle-aged NYC carriage horse who died enroute to work,  had a cracked tooth and ulceration of the stomach,  as revealed in his necropsy.  Horses need to eat free choice.  And if they drink too little because they’re working a 9 hour shift,  they can be both underfed,  cold,  and susceptible to colic.

Now if you listen to many commercial carriage supporters, they’ll tell you that two grain meals are perfectly fine and natural, and horses probably shouldn’t spend too much time on grass anyway because they will founder.  Of course,  there are exceptions to being on grass,  especially rich spring grass…….already laminitic horses,  overweight horses, certain pony breeds,  cushinoid/pituitary pars intermedia dysfunctional (PPID) or insulin-resistant horses may have to be dry-lotted or dry-lotted part of the time, but these are the exceptions that must be managed.  For more info on horses’ natural diets,  check out the eBooks  Horses Were Born to Be On Grass and Horses Without Grass.

The horse’s body uses food in order of importance.

  • Maintenance for body temperature
  • To renew the body’s tissues
  • Maintaining body condition and weight
  • For energy for movement and life

10.  As an Alternative,  Could the Horses Live And Work Only Within Central Park?

Chris pinned under the carriage

Chris is down and pinned under the carriage.

There are more than 200 carriage horses – stabling them in Central Park,  providing storage for the carriages,  storage for hay,  straw,  and temporary storage for manure, in addition to space for turn-out would require taking at least 100 acres of public green space and turning it over to this small, private industry.   And the horses could not realistically spend all their time in the park either, even spread out over several shifts.  The medallion holders own the 4 stables that the horses currently live in, so who would pay for the land use and the construction of a stable and paddocks? Would they sell their properties in order to finance such an undertaking?

11.  Will a Ban Mean That the Carriage Horses in NYC Will All Go to Slaughter?

We do not have enough rescue space in this country for the horses we have now.” At a press conference that day, then-Mayor Michael Bloomberg took the Daily News story and ran with it. “I assume all the horses will go to slaughter,” he said.  Bloomberg fueled the story, and it’s been picked up continuously since, with many news outlets — from TIME to Metro to, most recently, The Daily Beast – claiming that the horses may go to slaughter after the ban.  And so too did Liam Neeson.

Why do they have to go anywhere?  As I stated early on in this blog post, the owners are not compelled to sell them.  But seeing as they are assets of a business that could be eliminated,  most of them probably wouldn’t keep the horses anyway.  Elizabeth Forel of the Coalition to Ban Carriage Horses, has said that the threat is a scare tactic done to persuade people not to support a ban.  “If any of the horses go to the slaughter auctions, make no mistake – it will be the drivers who bring them there.” The carriage owners claim that they do not send their horses to auctions or kill buyers.  But they certainly do sell them to the Amish on occasion, and the Amish are often middle men or kill buyers themselves who work these horses hard and then send the old and/or unsound horses directly to auction or sell directly to a kill buyer.  The Canadian Horse Defence Coalition has in its video library, numerous examples of draft and draft crosses being slaughtered in Canada after being shipped from New Holland auction.

Atlanta Carriage Horse - shoe needs reset

This Atlanta carriage horse needs new shoes or a reset – the toe has grown over the shoe. Of course this can happen with any horse, but working carriage horses must have adequate foot protection due to the number of hours on the pavement.  And this did not happen overnight either – farrier care is overdue

Allie Feldman, Executive Director of NYClass,  said that several organizations, including The Humane Society of the United States, the ASPCA and her own group, are dedicated to providing homes for the retired horses. In a recent blog post, Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of HSUS, offered Cleveland Armory Black Beauty Ranch in Texas as a sanctuary for some of the horses. He believes he can reasonably place 40-50 of the horses.  And Matt Bershadker, CEO of ASPCA, did the same in a statement: “We would gladly get involved — including tapping into our network of rescue partners and resources — to help with the transition.” Jackie Beckstead, Director of Accreditation and Field Operations for the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries has also publicly stated that she has contacted her network of sanctuaries that take draft horses and found space available for horses as well.

And since we know that the horses have regular veterinary care, this will occasionally mean that they are given drugs that make them ineligible for slaughter, such as phenylbutazone.   Apparently former Mayor Bloomberg hasn’t heard about the prohibitions against sending drugged horses into the food chain!

12. Is it True That a “Land Grab” by Real-Estate Tycoons is the Primary Reason to End the Industry?”

Salt Lake City carriage horse Jerry colics while at work and is unable to rise. Later, he became the subject of a "bait and switch" campaign by the owners, who substituted another horse as him, and concealed his death for several weeks until challenged as to his whereabouts.

Salt Lake City carriage horse Jerry colics while at work and is unable to rise. Later, he became the subject of a “bait and switch” campaign by the owners, who substituted another horse as him, and concealed his death for several weeks until challenged as to his whereabouts.

This doesn’t explain why people like myself and others who have no vested interest in NYC real estate would like to see it end.   But this accusation has finally been debunked.  Steve Nislick, president of NYCLASS and a real estate developer, has answered the charges made by the carriage trade and the media that he wants the stable property.  He not only said it is not true but that if the property were  ever to come onto the market, he pledges that he will not bid on it.  He further goes on to say that neither will anyone from his company or organization.

The media has presented the carriage driver as a poor, marginalized, struggling blue collar worker whose business is being taken away by people who know nothing at all about horses and who covet their stable property. While I think that provisions need to be made for any drivers  who are employees of the medallion holders, some of the medallion holders own the buildings that house the horses, and two of the four stables happen to be sitting on prime real estate across from a Convention Center, near the Hudson Yards development.  Under the circumstances, cries that they would be victimized if they are sold ring hollow.  If the owners wanted to sell these properties, they would get market value for them and nothing less,  and they cannot be forced to sell them either.  So there is no “land grab.”

13. Should Mayor De Blasio be More Concerned That Horses are Dying at Aqueduct Racetrack?

Horse racing, like other gaming activities, is under the jurisdiction of the State of New York, not New York City.  I suspect that Mayor de Blasio has very limited, if any, input into the legislative/judicial actions of NY State. That is Governor Cuomo’s domain.

14. Are Most Complaints About the Carriage Horses Made by People Who Don’t Live in NYC or Haven’t Visited the Stables?

I’m sure that this is true,  but social media has made it irrelevant.  First of all, scheduled visits are worthless to see the true conditions for these animals. If you think scheduled inspections look the same as unscheduled inspections, try making a surprise visit to a nursing home.  Photographic evidence is abundantly available to allow others to judge for themselves.  Check out photos of the West Side Livery,  BEFORE the stalls were enlarged and it was added to the Clip Clop NYC Tour in 2013.

15.  There Is An Active Carriage Horse Trade in Toronto

Sorry,  this is just wrong.  We have no urban horses here.  Still,  some people will insist that we do,  and will google and find a half dozen or so carriage companies that provide LIVERY service in the Greater Toronto Area but do not stable horses here.  The horses are all stabled outside Toronto,  in most cases at least an hour’s drive away – in the country.  The fact that people can google “carriage horses Toronto” and find anything at all is a testament to the carriage companies’ use of Google Adwords campaigns driving internet searchers to their businesses.  Also,  some companies advertise their limousine services as “carriage livery” and they actually have no horses at all. 

16. How Safe is the Industry?

Jerry is hoisted back to the barn

Salt Lake City carriage horse Jerry is lifted back to the barn. You knew this was not going to end well when you saw the thin straps under his colicking belly.

The industry and its supporters like to tell us that there have been only 3 horses killed as a result of vehicular accidents in the last 30 years.  But smartphones haven’t existed for 30 years have they?  Most accidents that happened before smart phones and social media platforms existed were cleared before the media could report on them.  But now that we have smart phones, you’ll find there are a lot more accidents being revealed.  In any case,  there have been many injuries to both horses and people in the last 30 years,  and some horses were killed even though other vehicles were not involved.  On September 27, 2013 there was another widely-reported accident where a frightened carriage horse bolted and ran into traffic on heavily trafficked 57th St. Fortunately no one was in the carriage which slammed into a car, flipped and landed on the horse pinning his legs. Pedestrians helped to  lift the carriage off the horse who was not seriously injured.  Prior to this incident, this driver had been cited for over-charging customers in addition to operating the carriage for more than 12 hours within a 20 hour period.  While no horse activity is completely safe,  the potential injury for both horses,  passengers,  as well as property damage to other cars and the carriages themselves is greater due to the density of traffic, the noises of the city, and the number of things that in the city that a horse and carriage can collide with.

Source:  http://www.all-creatures.org/articles/act-c-shdc-acc.html

(Not all incidents occurred in NYC or even in North America)

17.  Some Commercial Carriage Drivers  Get Really Upset When They Perceive That They Don’t Have Support of Other Carriage Drivers or Horse People.

Well this is certainly not a myth!  They will try to convince you that whatever you are doing with your horse, it is more dangerous than what they are doing in NYC.  If you wear a helmet, you should stop that shit because you are a wimp.  Real horse people aren’t afraid of traumatic brain injuries.  If you prefer not to work your horse into a lather after riding or driving, your horse is a pansy.  At the very least they will make personal attacks about people’s character.

If caring for not only my own horse but other horses makes me a “loony” then please throw me in the bin.  Nobody cares if professional bloggers threaten to use the Huffington Post platform to write about us – it’s not news to anyone but a dozen or so harassers.  However,  maybe the people setting up fake Facebook pages pretending to advocacy groups should get some (professional) legal advice before they start interfering with the private business of people who disagree with the concept of urban carriage horses.  Harassment is not a protected form of speech.

*

You may recall the scene in Manhattan where Woody Allen and Mariel Hemingway take a romantic, private, horse-drawn carriage ride through Central Park, quipping their way through the leafy quiet. We regret to inform you that your carriage ride will be nothing like that experience. The horse will seem tired, the driver’s patter will be even less entertaining than Mia Farrow’s memoirs, and you’ll spend the entire ride crawling along the park’s main drives, staring at the back of another carriage, and enduring dirty looks from locals and animal lovers.—Siobhan Adcock

*

This trough is dry and full of crap

A Reply to Nathan Winograd…

Standard

bignewyorkerbookofdogs2Written by:  Amanda Katz (Guestblogger Extraordinaire)

After a lengthy discussion that centered around my support for HSUS and the ASPCA,  I asked Nathan Winograd via Facebook whether he supported Caboodle Ranch a failed hoarding/rescue of 700 cats.   He responded that he had made no statement about the ranch, then asked me a number of questions that seemed to be sparked by my cover pic of the HSUS baby seal campaign.  Here is my response to him, which came after a long series of back and forth between Winograd, myself and several other people.

Mr. Winograd – You have asked posters on your Facebook page not to put words in your mouth, yet your latest reply to me certainly puts words into mine.  You seem to have made all kinds of assumptions and accusations about what I think and believe, when all I did was ask if I could post openly on your page!   I am going to go ahead and share my thoughts openly, even though you removed my civil comments and banned me.

First regarding Caboodle Ranch.  I am glad to see you say you would condemn a place that is causing prolonged suffering and death to animals, even if that place calls itself No Kill.  That is exactly what Caboodle Ranch did.

You seem to be questioning the evidence against Caboodle Ranch solely because some of it came from PETA and ASPCA, which you claim lie about the facts.  However, it is hard to see where the evidence that PETA and ASPCA got about Caboodle was a lie.  Photos and video don’t lie, which is exactly why Big Ag. interests in several states are trying to pass Ag-Gag laws banning undercover investigations — and why the Caboodle defenders sound exactly like factory farmers talking about Mercy for Animals when they claim the photos and videos were doctored, staged, etc.

In the Caboodle Ranch case, PETA sent an undercover investigator at the request of several former volunteers to document the cruelty and neglect that caused the death of hundreds of cats.  PETA’s investigation provided local authorities with the evidence required to shut down the ranch.  At that point, local authorities asked the ASPCA to remove all 700 cats.  The ASPCA housed the cats for months while the legal proceedings were sorted out, provided extensive rehabilitation and medical treatment, and eventually adopted all but the very sickest of cats into new homes.

Even if you don’t believe PETA or the ASPCA about Caboodle Ranch, there is plenty of other evidence available. Before PETA and ASPCA were ever involved, the owner sued a former volunteer turned whistleblower for defamation and lost — it is this court case that provides much of the evidence against Caboodle Ranch, such as the financial records showing that Caboodle took in much more in donations than it paid in care for the cats, and that its owner used donations for the cats to pay for trips and clothing.

That evidence, combined with evidence from PETA and the ASPCA was certainly convincing to the courts, as the judge cited it in his order awarding custody of the cats to the local sheriff.  If all you do is read this court order, you will get a good idea of conditions for the animals at Caboodle Ranch.

Yes, I support the HSUS — and Other Organizations

You have also asked several questions of me.  I will do my best to answer them, though you may not like the answers.

I do support the HSUS, as well as ASPCA and PETA.  I also support Best Friends, and believe it or not, I support some of what you do as well.  You may not think that is possible, as you have made a concerted effort to draw a line in the sand between yourself and every other national animal welfare organization.  But I do not take such a black-and-white view of these issues.

First, regarding HSUS, you have presented a number of allegations on your Facebook page.  I can’t answer all of those, but I can answer some, and I believe you are misconstruing their actual work and position on the issues. For example, bignewyorkerbookofdogs5regarding dogs rescued from fighting operations, your description of the HSUS position does not include the fact that they changed their position on this issue back in April 2009 — almost four years ago.  At the time of the Vick case and the Wilkes County case, when asked, they did advise the court to euthanize the dogs.  That is not the same thing as “lobbying” — the court asked, and they provided an answer.  Moreover, at the time euthanasia was the standard recommendation for all dogs removed from fighting operations — most humane organizations made the same recommendation.

Fortunately the HSUS was mature enough to reconsider this position and change its recommendations to advocate for individual evaluations.  Again, that happened almost four years ago now, yet you continue to write about HSUS as if euthanasia is their current position when it is not.  Moreover, the HSUS remained true to its word with the rescue of 200 dogs from a fighting operation in Ohio in 2010.  All but the sickest of dogs were rescued and placed into new homes.

One of those homes belongs to an HSUS employee I know personally who slept with him in the living room every night for weeks so she could be there when he woke up with nightmares.  This is hardly the hard-hearted pro-killing organization that you make HSUS out to be.  For more, see “HSUS Steps Up and Seeks Help for 200 Dogs Seized from Fighting Operation” by Ledy van Kavage first published on change.org.

Why do you not present this crucial part of the story when discussing the HSUS’s recommendations on fighting dogs?

bignewyorkerbookofdogs1Gas chamber and Michael Vick

Regarding the allegations that HSUS has lobbied against laws banning the gas chamber, I have a very difficult time believing the HSUS did that. On the contrary, the HSUS has given grants to shelters to transition them off of the gas chamber.  The HSUS also actively supports the proposed Congressional resolution by Jim Moran (D-Va.) to condemn use of the gas chamber and encourage states to ban it.

You told someone farther up this thread that the Moran resolution makes an exception for shelters, but again, I think that is a misconstrual of the facts.  It is a proposed resolution, not a law, so it is not binding on anyone.  The national Congress is not going to pass a law regarding shelter practices because animal shelters are regulated by state and local governments, and are not a federal matter.

However, if Congress passed a resolution condemning the gas chamber, that would be an important tool in pushing states like North Carolina to ban the practice.  This would be a win for the animals that we are all trying to help.  That’s why resolutions like this should be supported regardless of feelings about HSUS.

Moreover, the HSUS position on the gas chamber is clear: “The HSUS considers use of the gas chamber in a shelter setting to be unacceptable under any circumstances.”  The reasons are that “Gas chambers cannot provide humane euthanasia for shelter populations,” and “Gas chambers pose grave dangers to staff.”

As for Vick, I can see why the HSUS worked with him, but it is not something I actively supported.  As was pointed out to you, Vick can reach inner-city kids in African American neighborhoods in a way that you, I, or Wayne Pacelle cannot. He spoke to tens of thousands of them, and if he got even one kid to reconsider going into dogfighting, that is a good thing.  Unfortunately, the Vick partnership sparked a strong backlash in the animal welfare community.  For that reason, I do not think it has been a success.

However, regardless of whether the Vick program was successful, it was not done as a quid pro quo to get $50,000 out of the Philadelphia Eagles.  That money did not go to line anyone’s pockets but to the End Dogfighting program in Philadelphia.  The Eagles also gave $50,000 grants to two other humane organizations at the same time — the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society to build a spay-neuter clinic, and Berks County Humane Society to fund a mobile veterinary clinic.

Why do you not mention those grants in your discussion of the Eagles money?  Is it possible the Eagles were simply trying to improve animal welfare in their community?  All three of their grants went to animal welfare programs in Philadelphia, and with a $50,000 grant, each program could help a lot more animals.

herding catsOther National Groups

Regarding the ASPCA, I do not know as much about them as I do HSUS, but they stepped up to save 700 cats from Caboodle Ranch, as well as 350 dogs from a failed rescue in Ohio in 2011. In both cases they were asked to help by local authorities because local shelters simply do not have the capacity to handle so many animals. And in both cases almost every animal was saved, and these were very sick animals removed from horrible hoarding situations.

This demonstrates one reason why we need the national groups.  What other groups have the capacity to conduct large-scale rescues from hoarding situations, fighting rings, puppy mills, natural disasters, and other cases when hundreds of animals are in need?  I don’t see that any of your No Kill shelters, as wonderful as they are, have the capacity to do that.

Furthermore, in many cases in which animals were removed from so-called rescues that were really situations of great cruelty, the rescue group had a 501c3.  In fact, all the national animal welfare groups have been asked to handle major removals from 501c3 rescue organizations that were actually horrible hoarding situations.  Besides the ASPCA’s involvement in Caboodle Ranch in Florida and One More Chance Rescue in Ohio, the HSUS rescued, rehabilitated and rehomed 700 cats from Haven Acres in Florida, while Best Friends rescued 800 cats from For the Love of Cats and Kittens in Nevada, 150 of which still live at the Best Friends sanctuary in Utah.

All of these so-called rescue groups had a 501c3, yet they all involved extreme animal suffering.  Perhaps this is why the national groups have not testified in favor of CAPA laws that would require local shelters to turn over animals to any rescue group that asks.  While most rescues are wonderful organizations, clearly some of them are not — to send an animal to one of these places would condemn it to prolonged suffering and death.

A 501c3 alone is simply not enough to ensure that a place calling itself a rescue is not a death camp.  Again I think you have misconstrued the position of the national organizations on this issue.  While you say they have lobbied against the CAPA bills, that is not the case in the instances I have read about, such as Best Friends which remained neutral on the CAPA proposal in New York.

Personally, I think shelters should work more with rescue groups and would support a version of CAPA that provided some kind of standards for rescue groups to meet before shelters were legally required to send animals to them.  I am not sure what those standards would be, but would support, for example, formation of an accrediting body for shelters and rescues similar to the organizations that accredit top zoos (Association of Zoos and Aquariums), and quality exotic animal sanctuaries (Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries).  Shelters and rescues would have an incentive to achieve accreditation because accredited organizations are more likely to draw donations and be awarded grants.

We All Want to End Shelter Euthanasiadogsandblogsnewyorker

As I said earlier, while I don’t agree with some of your positions, I do support other things you do.  The No Kill Equation is a list of best practices that every shelter should be striving to accomplish, and many shelters are already incorporating some, most or all of its elements into their operations.  Others are not.

There is no doubt that some shelters are in dire need of reform, and I am glad your group is there to demand that they do it.  But there is a difference between criticism meant to reform bad practices and a scorched earth campaign meant to destroy the very infrastructure we need to help animals.  I think that your rhetoric often crosses the line into destruction rather than criticism.

Moreover, I cannot agree that there is no such thing as pet overpopulation, or that adoption alone can end shelter euthanasia.  Increased adoption is certainly an essential part of what must be done, including concerted efforts at better marketing and placement of animals.  Other tactics to  help save large groups of animals should be supported, such as a creating a Parvo ward for puppies and a bottle baby ward for kittens, provided they are properly staffed to avoid suffering.

But we also must reduce the number of animals flowing into shelters, particularly from puppy mills and unaltered street cats.  Low-cost spay-neuter for low-income areas is vital, as is legislation regulating high-volume dog breeders.  Why endorse one tactic to end shelter euthanasia (increasing demand) but not another (decreasing supply)?  Surely there is room for a variety of tactics to achieve this important goal.

You say that no one can provide numbers showing there are fewer homes than animals needing to be placed.  That is because such national numbers do not exist.  We have an idea how many animals are in shelters, but we have no idea how many are being advertised on Craig’s List and other online forums, how many stray cats are on the streets, how many people get cats from accidental litters that a friend had, etc.

The actual number of homeless animals is much, much higher than what is in shelters.  For every person who gets a cat at a shelter, many more get cats from friends or the streets.  That is direct competition for shelter animals and must be considered in these calculations of supply and demand. Furthermore, the animals who are in shelters do not always match what people are looking for.  Most people don’t want pit bulls, yet half of dogs in shelters are pits or pit mixes.  People want kittens, not adult cats, yet shelters are overflowing with adult cats.  People don’t want black animals.

I’m not saying that’s right.  I think it’s terrible.  But regardless of what I think, someone who comes to a shelter looking for a kitten or a Pomeranian is not going to walk away with an adult black cat or a pit bull.  So it’s not a matter solely of numbers.  It is also a matter of preferences.  Shelter director Karel Minor makes this point eloquently.

Herblock Fire June 17, 1949We Need to Work Together

To say that people who disagree with your interpretation of these complex issues are “pro-killing” is simply not accurate.  On this page I have seen you tell people who spend their entire life outside of work rescuing animals that they are pro-killing.  I believe that is a misrepresentation of their hard work and counter-productive. With so many animals suffering, we need ALL tactics, ALL groups working together.

You have noted that the number of no kill communities is rising.  They achieve no kill by working with others in their communities to constructively solve problems, not through vicious attacks and infighting.

I look forward to the day when all animal advocates can work together to help animals in need, when there is room for all tactics and programs to end shelter euthanasia, and when we can end this vicious infighting that is a much larger threat to the animal welfare movement than any external enemy ever could be.

Survey Says……The Lake Research Partners Survey on Horse Slaughter is Righteous!

Standard

Written by Heather Clemenceau

The now infamous Lake Research Partners survey on horse slaughter in the United States, conducted on behalf of the ASPCA, shows that voters oppose the slaughter of American horses for human consumption overwhelmingly. The opposition is strong among those who own horses and those who do not, as well as across every key demographic and geographic group, and across political party lines.

Check the survey itself to see how it is stratified across the various demographics.  What does it really mean?  Well,  to start off,  it should be known that surveys conducted by professional research firms are designed and interpreted by statisticians and social scientists,  and unless we’re talking about a complete census,  they all use some form of random sampling.

1)  What makes a survey such as this more valuable than one by Survey Monkey installed on a website?

The fact that it is randomized and not placed on a website where only people visiting the website can see it and vote.  The ability to vote multiple types is eliminated because only one phone call is made and only one vote can be cast.  Survey Monkey is simply a “quick and dirty” way for marketers to ask questions,  often in direct mail campaigns.  They are only as accurate as their distribution methods.  On the other hand,  surveys conducted by professional research firms are used to:

  • Help TV networks decide what people are watching particular shows,  and therefore where they can charge the most advertising
  • Help Statistics Canada study educational and other needs
  • Assist Auto manufacturers in finding out out how satisfied people are with their cars
  • Aid Census groups to obtain information on employment and unemployment
  • Provide information for new businesses who purchase aggregate data,  to decide where to locate their business based on where their markets lie.

2)  Why do research firms limit themselves to samples of around 1,000 people?

They don’t – they will conduct as elaborate and expensive a survey as their client wishes to pay for.  So unless that client is the government,  which has very deep pockets,  there is going to be a budgetted expenditure.  Included in the survey cost will be such things as the labour and material costs for designing,  testing,  meeting with the client to define needs,  printing the questionnaire,  providing pre-stamped return envelopes or budget for phone costs (in the case of this survey,  which was a phone survey of registered voters).

Once the information is returned or collected if a phone survey,  it must be recorded and analyzed by qualified individuals.  A survey of around 1,000 people is both quick and economical – the well-known national polls frequently use samples of about 1,000 persons to get reasonable information about national attitudes and opinions.

3)  How can a survey of 1,000 people provide a true representation of an entire country’s view?

No survey,  unless it is  a complete census (a complete survey of 100% of the population – EXPENSIVE and TIME CONSUMING)  can depict the true population sentiment.  Analysts find that a properly randomized survey with  a moderate sample size is statistically significant. The sample size required for a survey partly depends on the statistical quality needed for survey findings; this, in turn, relates to how the results will be used.

4)  How can I be sure the question isn’t leading people to the answer?

In this case,  the question is straight-forward – “Would you say you approve or disapprove of ALLOWING American horses to be slaughtered for human consumption? [IF APPROVE/DISAPPROVE]: Do you feel that way strongly or just somewhat strongly?[IF UNDECIDED]: Well, which way do you lean?”

The question doesn’t ask you if you “…..approve or disapprove of allowing American horses to be shipped long distances and slaughtered inhumanely….,”  or “wouldn’t you say it’s about time we ended slaughter?” which would also be a leading question.  Phrasing an opinion question this way leads the respondent to a “yes” answer and a distorted or biased perspective of the public’s views on the issue.  Also note that the question is fairly short and uncomplicated.   People are more likely to cooperate if the questions are simple, clear, easy to answer, and personally relevant to them.  Most surveys are written at a grade-school level as well, for simplicity’s sake.

5)  How are the survey respondents selected?

In a bona fide survey (which is not a Survey Monkey offering), the sample is not selected haphazardly or only from persons who volunteer to participate. It is scientifically chosen so that each person in the population will have a measurable chance of selection.   This way, the results can be reliably projected from the sample to the larger population.  This survey started with registered voters as its base,  so if a lot of either pro or anti-slaughter advocates are unregistered,  they would never be contacted.  Quite possibly a random dialer was used to reach the respondents.

6)  What errors can confound (produce false results) in a survey?

This survey had a 3.09% margin of error (MOE). That means that if you asked a question from this poll 100 times, 95 (or whatever the degree of confidence calculated for a survey,  usually 95-97%) of those times the percentage of people giving a particular answer would be within 3.09 points of the percentage who gave that same answer in this poll – so the poll is likely to only vary either upwards or downwards of the 80% by 3.09 percentage points.   If you conduct the same poll 100 times you are not going to see a complete reversal in the trend either.   In other words,   there would be relatively little variation no matter how many times you conducted the same survey,  because it has been effectively randomized to include people from various socio-economic climates,  political affiliations, etc. etc.  Why 95 times out of 100? In reality, the margin of error is what statisticians referred to as a confidence interval. The math behind it is much like the math behind the standard deviation. So you can think of the margin of error at the 95 percent confidence interval as being equal to two standard deviations in your polling sample.

7)  What effects the Margin of Error?

  • Sample size
  • Type of Sampling
  • Size of the Sample Population

Sample size is important to avoid negatively impacting the margin of error. In sampling,  a sample of 100 will produce a margin of error of around 10 percent, a sample of error of 500 will produce a margin of error of no more than about 4.5 percent, and a sample of size 1,000 will produce a margin of error of no more than about 3.2 percent.  Of course, this observation is consistent with the MOE we see in the Lake Research sample – 3.09%.  This illustrates that there are diminishing returns when trying to reduce the margin of error by increasing the sample size.  In order to  reduce the margin of error to 1.5%,  the research firm would require a sample size of well over 4,000,  which of course increases time and cost to the client.

The type of sampling affects the MOE because the survey designer can control the design or the survey.  For example,  if the phone respondents were not adequately randomized,  or the survey designer elected to call people only from his or her regional phone directory,  that would be consistent with a poorly designed survey because it wouldn’t be random, and it would exclude people with unpublished or unlisted phone numbers.  By randomizing the phone numbers,  you can still contact people with unlisted phone numbers,  but not people without phones of course!

The sample population is merely the total number of individuals from whom to choose for your survey or poll.  Proper sampling designs involve defining groups, or strata, based on characteristics known for everyone in the population, and then taking independent samples within each stratum.

Another type of statistical error that can confound a survey is “non-sampling error.”  Not everyone will respond to a survey,  or sometimes they won’t tell the truth.  But the estimate will probably still differ from the true value to some degree,  even if all non-sampling errors could be omitted. Unless a large number of respondents decided to lie,  this would not substantially affect the survey.

Lake Research Partners Poll for ASPCA - Page 1

Lake Research Partners Poll for ASPCA – Page 1

Lake Research Partners Poll for ASPCA - Page 2

Lake Research Partners Poll for ASPCA – Page 2

Lake Research Partners Poll for ASPCA - Page 3

Lake Research Partners Poll for ASPCA – Page 3