Animal Photographer Harry Whittier Frees

Harry Whittier Frees (1879 – 1953) photographed live animals in costumes and elaborate settings without special effects. He is best known for his picture postcards which were a new and popular medium at the time. Frees’ original photos are black and white, some were colorized after his death. I have read that he “rented” his subjects from breeders and pet shops in addition to using his own pets and those of friends.

Stray Dogs in Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is a little smaller than the state of Connecticut. Like some of the southern states, rescues in Puerto Rico send some of its stray dogs (known as “satos” locally) to the Northeast for adoption. Since shelters in the Northeast are short on dogs and Puerto Rico has an estimated 150,000 stray dogs, it makes sense to network on rescue efforts:

After nearly 15 years of Sato importation, New England is surely home to the highest concentration of these former strays of anywhere off the island. And they have a devoted following. Satos tend to be on the small side (under 30 pounds) and they come in many unusual combinations, just like Valiente [a Chihuahua/Border Collie mix]. Chihuahua genes are pretty common, as are enormous ear spans, stubby legs, and a penchant for sun bathing. Their gratitude at being given a second chance is often palpable.

Approximately 2000 stray dogs are rehomed in this manner every year in Puerto Rico. Which leaves us 148,000 more in need of help. The state is roughly 3500 square miles in size. If the estimate on stray dog numbers is accurate, that works out to approximately 43 strays per square mile. Think of a square mile in your neighborhood. Now put 43 stray dogs in there. Repeat the exercise times 3500 square miles and you can imagine the challenges and difficulties facing rescuers in Puerto Rico. I wonder if there is any access to low cost neuter in the state or if they even have any actual shelters. I wonder what more they need by way of assistance. Anyone?

Death of Innocents

I can’t point to a specific reason why this story bothers me so much but it probably has to do with the Mother pushing the kid off that dark, point-of-no-return cliff called compassion:

As punishment for bad grades, a Georgia mother forced her 12-year-old son to kill his pet hamster with a hammer, police said.

The Mother has been arrested and charged with animal and child cruelty, along with battery. But the thing is, justice can never be served. What justice could there be? Obviously nothing can bring back the hamster but for the kid – well, this can’t be undone. He’s been violently and cruelly robbed of something intangible which no child should have to live without, and by his protector in this world – his Mother.

Treats on the Internets

TN taxpayers still paying the salaries of suspended Memphis Animal Shelter staff

KC Dog Blog: The False Solace of Vilification

SC Lt. Gov. Bauer finds himself in a hole, keeps digging

LAFD defends rescue of German Shepherd from L.A. River

Pet Connection: Do Animals Need Laws Protecting Them from Shelters?

Chicago requiring criminal background checks & fingerprinting for shelter volunteers

Anyone seen this movie? Netflix doesn’t seem to have it and I’d like to see it.

No Help for Trapped Cat in Houston

If the power company called and asked if it was ok if they turn off your power briefly while someone rescues a cat stuck on a power pole, would you be ok with that? I would. Normally when my power goes out, it just happens – I don’t get any advance notice. And I, like everyone else, deal with the situation until it comes back on. But in the case of a cat in need of help in Houston, no one even asked:

Lauren Kutac’s 8-month-old kitten spent 47 hours on the pole located in the backyard of her home in southwest Houston before she was electrocuted in the middle of the night.

The cat lover said she called several agencies including the Houston Fire Department, the SPCA, the Houston Police Department, and CenterPoint while she was sitting on the pole. They all declined her request for help.
“Not one person could help me,” she said.
CenterPoint Energy makes the decisions regarding the power pole. A company spokesperson said they could not turn off the power because it would affect several customers throughout the neighborhood.
I repeat: No one even asked.

The Houston SPCA spokesman, Meera Nandal, brings her usual fail:

“It’s a big misconception that [cats] should be free roaming and it’s OK for them to be outdoors, but actually, they need to live indoors,” said Nandlal.

kthx. So I guess it’s the stupid owner’s own fault the cat got stuck in the first place so the cat should just have to die. *cough*prevention-of-cruelty*cough*

The opportunity to help a pet owner in need, get some positive publicity for your shelter and educate the public while you’re at it just got sucked into your vortex of pigheadedness. Thanks for playing.

I wonder where the owner will look when she’s ready to get another cat? I’m guessing NOT the HSPCA, maybe not any shelter, after this experience.

You Learn Something New Every Day, Screwworm Edition

I’m not familiar with screwworms but apparently they are as nasty as they sound (pdf):

Screwworms are fly larvae (maggots) that feed on living flesh. These parasites infest all mammals and, rarely, birds.
Female flies lay their eggs at the edges of wounds or on mucous membranes. When they hatch, the larvae enter the body, grow and feed, progressively enlarging the wound. Eventually, they drop to the ground to pupate and develop into adults. Screwworms can enter wounds as small as a tick bite. Left untreated, infestations can be fatal. Screwworms have been eradicated from some parts of the world, including the southern United States, but infested animals are occasionally imported into screwworm-free countries. These infestations must be recognized and treated promptly; if the larvae are allowed to leave the wound, they can introduce these parasites into the area.

Haiti is one of the countries where screwworms have not been eradicated. There is some concern that refugees coming to the U.S. from Haiti might bring pets infested with screwworms. The state of WA addressed this concern (veterinary inspections required for dogs coming from Haiti) but I could not find anything for South Carolina. I did come across a mention of the subject regarding FL but no specific policies or protocols are provided.

Bonus: Humans can host the larvae too! The pdf linked above has lots more gory details, if you are so inclined.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Clarksdale, MS: We have space at our shelter for 60 pets but do you think we could make room for just one more?

(Repeat times 400 or so):

The ASPCA removed more than 400 cats and dogs from the Clarksdale, Mississippi shelter on Sunday, January 24, 2010.

Tim Rickey, the ASPCA’s Senior Director of Field Investigations and Response, says many of the animals appear to be healthy, but some have medical conditions, including mange, as well as injuries and bite wounds from living in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions.

“What we’ve found,” says Rickey, “are more than 400 animals living in a space designed for about 60. Our goal is to export as many of the animals as possible to other agencies where they can be placed up for adoption.”

What’s Stopping Us?

All aspects of the No Kill Equation are intertwined and it would be foolish to think we can single out one or two tenets and solve the problem of killing pets in shelters. Having said that, I sometimes think about doing something along those very lines. That is, I consider what single thing could happen today to bring us dramatically closer to being a no kill nation. The two most obvious to me are:

  1. All those killing homeless pets in this country simply stop. They adopt the no kill philosophy and begin to implement the changes needed in their communities. And in the meantime, they stop killing pets.
  2. We increase shelter adoptions a little bit. Nathan Winograd breaks down the math for us here.

Now of those two ideas, I think it’s unrealistic to expect the first would happen today. Changing philosophies takes time. Especially when many shelters are still very far away from the no kill philosophy and consider killing to be a “kindness” they perform because they love pets or a “necessity” due to so-called pet overpopulation. As for the second, I think yes, that could happen today.


The first and most important point to my mind is to stop blaming the public. We don’t want potential adopters to feel guilty for buying a pet from a responsible breeder by perpetuating the myth that a shelter pet must be killed for every pet purchased from a responsible breeder. There is room in no kill, and in fact a need for, responsible breeders selling pets to people. In addition, we don’t want the public to feel guilty that animal shelters exist. For example, when we wag our fingers at owners who do not neuter their pets and state that they are the reason we must have shelters and in turn “must” kill pets, we demonize both potential adopters and the shelters themselves. More education, assistance and understanding – less judgment.

Secondly, let’s recognize that there is a group of people in society who would like to add a pet to the family but are not sure how best to obtain one. This is our target market. If we can influence some of the people in this group to adopt from a shelter, we can make that giant leap toward no kill I dream about. The good news is that the potential adopters are out there and the pets are out there. The bad news is that there is a gap between the two preventing them from connecting. It is this gap we must bridge and everyone must pitch in if we are to be successful.

Shelters must make themselves as inviting as possible to the public by keeping pets and facilities clean, keeping their doors open when people are most likely to visit, getting pets out to high traffic locations such as pet supply stores, and maintaining reasonable guidelines for approving adopters. To meet these goals, high quality, committed leadership is essential and more volunteers will be needed:

Some pets will need more than a bath in order to look presentable. If you have basic grooming skills, your help is needed.

Other pets will benefit from some time in foster care to learn basic manners. For example, a large dog who has been taught not to jump up on people and not to pull on the leash is going to be far more adoptable than one who hasn’t. If you have basic obedience training skills, your help is needed.

Orphaned kittens who need to be bottle fed around the clock in order to survive their first weeks of life arrive at shelters every Spring. If you have the ability to offer a temporary home to a litter of kittens in need of care, your help is needed.

Shelter cats who have been handled lovingly by humans are going to be more adoptable than those who haven’t. If you have cat petting skills, your help is needed.

Dogs who have been walked are going to have less anxiety when visitors stroll through the shelter than those who haven’t and as such, will be more appealing to adopters. If you have dog walking skills, your help is needed.

Sick or injured pets will require more veterinary care than healthy pets to make them adoptable. If you have veterinary skills, your help is needed.

Caring for pets costs money and shelters want to keep adoption fees as low as possible in order to encourage adoptions. If you can donate money to your local shelter, your help is needed.

Educating the public about the availability of shelter pets and how to responsibly care for pets over their lifetimes is essential. If you have a digital camera and know how to create a website to advertise shelter pets, your help is needed. And if you have good written and/or verbal communication skills and know how to make people feel good about themselves while learning something, your help is needed. (Lecturing finger-waggers need not apply.)

You get the idea: Your help is needed. If we all pitch in and work to bridge the gap between adopters and shelter pets, we could bump up shelter adoptions enough to make enormous strides toward becoming a no kill nation. It could happen today.

Humanity Fail, Courtesy of SC Lt. Governor

In case you were wondering why SC Governor Mark Sanford wasn’t tossed out on his Appalachian Trail hiking ass, it’s because our Lt. Governor, who would have been his replacement, is a freak. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer is seeking the Republican gubernatorial nomination and as such, spoke at a town hall meeting last night on the subject of providing government assistance to those in need:

“My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better,” Bauer said.

Setting aside the equivalency Bauer draws between stray pets and poor people – yeah I know, that’s a HUGE one to try and set aside – I can’t help going back to the words “ample food supply”. The idea that we would deny any living creature – mind you, Bauer was discussing kids who get free lunches at school – an “ample food supply” when it is within our power to give them access, well that’s not the America I grew up in nor is it the South Carolina I have grown to love.

We feed stray pets for many of the same reasons we provide free school lunches to low income kids:

  1. We are a humane society.
  2. We have enough resources to share so that no living thing needs to go hungry in this country.
  3. We feel a sense of responsibility to those in need because they are members of our communities.
  4. We’re not freaks.

Although there was no chance I would have worked to support Bauer’s campaign before, I now have extra motivation to work for his defeat. Game on, dirtbag.

It is necessary to help others, not only in our prayers, but in our daily lives. If we find we cannot help others, the least we can do is to desist from harming them. – Dalai Lama

Los Angeles Fire Department Heroes

The news hasn’t been very good this week but it cheers me to know that there is still room in our hearts to make the saving of one dog national news. Thank you LAFD for rescuing this poor dog who had gotten himself trapped in the L.A. River. The heart stopping end of the rescue is on video here.