Feds Strip Manatees of Endangered Species Status Despite Serious Threats

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Manatees gathered near the TECO power plant in Tampa.  (Photo via Save the Manatee)

Your tl;dr Summary:

Feds: There are more manatees so that endangered species thing is solved.

Scientists:  What about the fact that we are providing a lethal habitat for them?

Feds:  There are MORE MANATEES.

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Data from recent years shows that manatees are being killed in record numbers due to human induced threats such as boat strikes and red tide.  The US Fish and Wildlife Service recently announced its decision to remove the animals from the endangered species list (downlisting them as “threatened”) citing an increase in population.  Current estimates put the Florida manatee over 6600. But Save the Manatee points out that population numbers were not the only issues that landed the animals there in the first place:

[H]uman threats to manatees and habitat, not low population counts, were the reason for the manatee’s Endangered Species listing. The species still faces these threats today and mitigating these factors is the standard for recovery.

Not only have the factors not been mitigated, they’re going to get worse:

We believe this is a devastating blow to manatees,” said Patrick Rose, Executive Director for Save the Manatee Club (SMC). With regard to Florida manatees in particular, Rose stated, “FWS decided to prematurely downlist manatees without a proven viable plan for reducing record-high watercraft-related manatee deaths and without establishing a long-term plan for the anticipated loss of artificial winter warm water habitat on which more than 60% of the Florida manatee population depends. A federal reclassification at this time will seriously undermine the chances of securing the manatee’s long- term survival. With the new federal administration threatening to cut 75% of regulations, including those that protect our wildlife and air and water quality, the move to downlist manatees can only be seen as a political one.”

Politics, politics everywhere and all the boards did shrink.

Downlisting is dangerous for manatees for several reasons.  It puts manatees on a slippery slope where disputed population numbers alone may be used to remove protections in future.  People will see the current measures as being adequate in saving the animal when in fact many of the issues threatening the manatee remain unaddressed.  As an example, an increasing number of manatees gather near the artificially warmed waters near power plants in winter.  There are currently no plans in place to replace these habitats if and when these power plants shut down.

The Washington Post reports:

The Center for Biological Diversity also opposed the federal reclassification, calling 2016 “the deadliest year to date” for the animals[.]
[…]
Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) called it “HUGELY disappointing” and promised to reach out to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

WaPo also reminds readers about the orphaned manatee calf rescued by a Florida zoo last fall who died 3 months into his care because he had eaten so much trash off the ocean floor – a tragic example of the continuing human threat to manatees.

So yay, there are more manatees but geez, it seems like before removing them from the endangered species list the feds should conduct an in-depth and comprehensive examination of all the factors threatening the animal and obtain input from manatee advocates who study them – not just punch up a calculator.

Nobody knew that protecting lives could be so complicated, I guess.

What you can do: Contact the USFWS (and/or tweet them) and ask them to reconsider removing the manatee from the endangered species list and focus their efforts on addressing the human induced threats to the manatee’s habitat and long-term recovery.

Save

Open Thread

Post anything animal related in the comments, anytime.  New Open Threads are posted weekly.

Treats on the Internets

Texas – An off duty Tyler ACO was reportedly walking his dog past his neighbor’s yard where several children were playing.  When the family dog Lulu attempted to greet the ACO, he shot her to death, claiming he feared for his life.  Police are investigating.  (Some readers may recall Tyler as one of the cities which contracted the notorious Klein Animal Shelter to dispose of its community pets.)

Lulu was a beloved family member with no known history of aggression.  Nine year old Jaycie, a member of Lulu’s family, told the local news:

I don’t know why he would kill a dog if he was animal control, because he’s really supposed to save dogs not kill them.

I don’t know either.  But that’s a pretty good question.  Maybe taxpayers should demand an answer.  (Thanks to the reader who sent me this story.)

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In an effort to boost morale at the Interior Department, employees will be allowed to bring their dogs to work as part of a test program on two Fridays in May and September at the department’s DC headquarters. (Thanks Clarice.)

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If you have $3 million, you might like to buy Bela Lugosi’s old home in Hollywoodland where he and his wife lived with their large dogs, including a white German shepherd.  (Thanks Billy.)

bela gsd

Petland Not Actually Magical Land O’ Pets

Many animal lovers know that Petland buys puppies from puppy mills and sells them in its chain stores throughout the country. Petland has recently successfully lobbied state legislatures in Ohio and Arizona to pass legislation enabling the company to do business basically as it sees fit, exempting it from any and all local ordinances designed to protect animal welfare:

When 10News reached out to Petland corporate, Mike Gonidakis, president of Citizens for Responsible Ownership, responded and said he can speak for Petland.
[…]
He said Petland works to be transparent in their practices, and only sources animals from USDA licensed breeders.

“We want our customers to have the peace of mind that we’re not coming from a puppy mill,” he said.

pants plus fire

As a reminder, the inspection records for USDA licensed breeders have been removed from public view by the Trump administration. No one can find out which USDA licensed breeders are meeting the bare bones requirements for things like cage size and veterinary care and which ones are chronic animal abusers. And to be clear, USDA licensed breeders are exactly what most Americans think of when they hear the words “puppy mill.”

rottie pups in mill usda

USDA inspector’s 2012 photo of a registered breeder’s facility.

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Portions of a 2009 USDA federal violations report as shown on thememoryhole2.org.

Riding the wave of rampant deregulation nationwide, Petland has moved on to TN where the company convinced state legislators to write a bill favoring its business in the state:

The bill is co-sponsored by state Sen. Becky Massey (R-Knoxville):

“I personally wouldn’t buy a dog in a pet store. And I would not do anything I feel would be detrimental to dogs,” she said. “But let’s say a single mom, her kids wanted a purebred dog and she didn’t feel comfortable going to somebody’s home. You take them to a pet store and let them pick out a dog. I would want that single mom to have protections that they weren’t going to be sold a puppy mill puppy.”

Nice single mom story but again, Petland sells puppy mill puppies soooooooo….

One TN county is already looking into potential conflicts the bill’s passage could create:

“The House Bill HB0568 and companion Senate Bill  0519 currently in the Tennessee State Legislature may adversely impact current local government’s ability to enforce a law, regulation or ordinances addressing the sell and wellbeing of dogs in retail commerce in the State of Tennessee,” said Bud Armstrong, Knox County Law Director.

“Any and all state laws related to the health and cares of dogs could be affected,” he added, pointing to existing ordinances on Rabies vaccinations, animal care and keeping and bite investigations/quarantines.”

This sounds like the legislation could affect shelters and rescue groups.  And it would seem that ACOs would be unable to enforce cruelty laws against any Petland within its jurisdiction.  But I guess that’s part of the reason Petland requested the legislation.

If you live in TN, contact your state legislators and ask them to oppose the Petland bill (House Bill 0568 and Senate Bill 0519).

(Thanks Ona for the tip.)

Open Thread

Post anything animal related in the comments, anytime.  New Open Threads are posted weekly.

Desperately Seeking Shelter: Corpus Christi Edition

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Dog being cared for by the “irresponsible public” as shown on the Corpus Christi Caller-Times website.

A dog owner in Corpus Christi, Texas apparently tried to help his young dog via a home splinting/bandaging job on both front legs. He ended up causing additional harm to the dog and decided to leave him in a highly visible location, presumably in hopes that someone with the means to obtain proper vet care would help the dog.  That happened via a good Samaritan and a local rescue group.

The treating vet says that upon bandage removal, one of the dog’s front legs fell off due to gangrene and they are working to save the other leg.  He told the local paper:

“Money is not as important as trying to do the right thing for unfortunate dogs or cats,” he said. “I would never put a dog to sleep for lack of funding.”

In contrast, the website for the Corpus Christi pound states that they only accept surrendered animals by appointment – which requires an in-person visit to the pound in order to fill out a form requesting said appointment – and only when they have space.  And they may kill the pet immediately upon intake “if inadequate space exists, if the animal is not highly adoptable, or if the animal appears to be ill or injured.”  “Inadequate space” is not “no space” but they don’t define what pound employees consider “inadequate”.  “Highly adoptable” is another subjective term which they also fail to define: if a pet is not adopted within an hour of surrender, is he no longer “highly adoptable” because duh, no one rushed to adopt him?  Where does a scruffy little dog with falling off legs rank in the adoptability spectrum?  And “appears to be ill or injured” is also vague and also scary.  Is illness or injury something you can tell just by looking? A cough is an illness, a torn toenail is an injury – exactly who is eyeballing the appearance of the animals and making these assessments?

The city of Corpus Christi is not operating a shelter.  Instead they are using taxpayer funds to run a pet killing facility.  People do not want to take pets, no matter how dire the circumstances, to pet killing facilities.  Rescue groups and animal lovers are willing to partner with municipal facilities to save lives.  Implementing the proven programs of the No Kill Equation saves lives.  Corpus Christi could provide true shelter to animals in need and get them adopted but the city chooses not to do that.

Any questions as to why a compassionate owner in Corpus Christi would think it’s better to tie his leg-falling-off dog to a row of mailboxes rather than take him to the so-called shelter?

Save

Animal Welfare in the Age of Trump

What we know about the Trump administration’s regard for animals so far is troubling.  In the early weeks of his presidency, Trump had many government websites scrubbed of information – a clear indication that transparency is not in the game plan.  Among them was the USDA website which for many years had posted inspection reports on roughly 8000 facilities (such as puppy mills, research labs, zoos and circuses) required to treat their animals humanely under the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act.  The searchable database allowed the public to see things like which research labs were letting monkeys die of thirst and lose body parts in fights due to negligence.  It also provided an opportunity to see which puppy mills passed USDA inspection – a low, very low, how can I say this? L O W bar – and which were repeat violators.  Several states have passed laws requiring pet stores to buy puppies only from breeders not cited for violations by the USDA.  With the inspection reports now gone, it is unclear how these pet stores, or anyone else, would find out the federal inspection history of any breeding facility.

Due to public outcry (thing I never tire of typing), the feds relented and put a “small fraction of the cache back online.”  But the most credible effort to date at holding the USDA accountable is coming from a private citizen by the name of Russ Kick.  He has set up a blog to repost the deleted documents, provide links to other sites doing the same, and ask for help from anyone who has saved any of the disappeared reports.  (Anyone wanting to support his one man effort can do so here.)

Then there is the Trump budget proposal.  While it is up to Congress to work out and decide upon the details, the proposal does give us insight into Trump’s vision for American families (and by family, I mean anyone who loves and shares their home with another being).  In a nutshell: bombs IN, poor people OUT.  Of the numerous proposed cuts within the budget, many will directly impact families if passed by Congress.  These include cuts to housing for low income people as well as:

And incidentally, the farmers who grow the food used in these anti-hunger programs will be negatively impacted as well.

It is estimated that approximately 65% of U.S. households have pets.  These include low income families.  If Americans who were previously relying on government assistance to help with things like baby formula, school lunches, and meals for homebound relatives are cut off from that assistance, pets will be impacted.  When families suffer, pets suffer.

Pets who provide enormous benefits to senior citizens and veterans, may end up being fed from the reduced food available to the owner (resulting in even less food for these already at-risk people), be surrendered to shelters or perhaps not even adopted in the first place.  When families suffer, pets suffer.

As the public learns about the proposed cuts to these essential family programs, they will rush to open their wallets and offer support.  Because that’s what we do.  At the same time, with so many valuable services being cut from the federal budget, competition for donation dollars will increase.  And compassion fatigue will set in.  Indeed, an insurance company recently debuted a television ad depicting a man feeling overwhelmed by so many worthy causes and issues in his community – the first of which is represented by a shelter dog.  Rescue groups can expect to work harder for every donated dollar and volunteer hour as compassionate people spread their resources far and wide.

What you can do:

  1.  Check to see if your Congressman signed this letter to Trump asking that the USDA documents be restored to the website.  If he/she did, call his/her office to say thank you and ask that the issue not be dropped.  If he/she did not sign, call and request that he/she support this effort.  Senator Cory Booker (D – NJ) has set up a petition.  (Note:  petitions are ok but phone calls are the thing.  Start making calls.  Plan to keep making them.  Every voice is needed – even quiet ones.)
  2. Call your elected representatives and tell them to reject the cruel Trump vision for American families outlined in his budget proposal. Demand that they stand up and fight for our shared values and rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.

Here Again

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I don’t know exactly how this is going to go but I’m ready to give it a whirl.  One thing I do know: while the main focus of the blog will remain, there will be a lot more politics.  That’s just part of life now, whether you were apolitical, a newshound, an activist, or anything else on the spectrum – you are in it now.  We are all in it, together.  Politics affects all our families.  Pets are family.  Shelter pets, the most vulnerable of all, will suffer even more now than in past.  I will resist this whole stinking thing.

I won’t be offended if you choose not to read.  I’ll miss you, but I respect your choice.  All I ask is that you do the same.

If you choose to stick around, yay.  And thank you.  Thank you for reading all these years, for waiting while I wasn’t up to posting and for your kind words of support.  I have missed all of you and look forward to delivering sentences to your inbox and hearing from you again.

Open Thread

While the blog is on hiatus, I am leaving this open thread up so people can share anything animal related in the comments.

vintage-dog-photographs-by-elliott-erwitt

Just a Note

First, thank you to everyone who has stuck around while the blog is on hiatus.  I appreciate you, more than I can say.  I thought an update was in order since January is about to come to an end and I haven’t yet returned as I had hoped.  I still have the desire to blog, I am just uncertain as to when I will be in a position to act on it.  I am struggling with depression, unemployment and various other life circumstances which I know affect everyone at times.  I’ll get through but rather than set any deadline which I may not be able to meet regarding when I’ll be back here, I am simply going to put up another Open Thread after I post this note.  It is my intention to return, sooner rather than later, which I take as a good sign.  In the meantime, I am thinking of you and hoping.