Browsing "Animal Welfare"

NAIA at NCSL

For more than a decade, we have maintained a presence at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL). NAIA board members attend to the booth, conversations are had, connections are made, and perceptions are changed. This year, the event was held in Boston, Massachusetts.

From left: NAIA Board members Patte Klecan, Dr. Cindy Buckmaster, Nancy Fisk.

Why is this event important? Because the entire conversation surrounding human-animal interaction — policy positions, philosophical perspectives, even the language we use — has long been dominated by the ideology of the animal rights movement. Those of us who live, love, and work with animals who have hands-on experience and more mainstream positions on animal welfare and conservation issues are often drowned out. So this event gives us an opportunity to share our perspective and let legislators know that there are organizations out there who not only care deeply about animals, but also the human-animal bond, and positive outcomes that are driven by data. If you work with animals, we are here for you.

Even after all these years, it never ceases to amuse us how curious passersby will breathe a sigh of relief after a conversation or reading a brochure. “Oh, sorry. I was worried you were one of those groups.”

No. No we are not.


 

Oh, and speaking of making new friends…

 

No “Sanctuary” for Chimpanzees: When Ideology Trumps Animal Welfare

If you follow animal issues, you probably know that invasive biomedical research with chimpanzees is no longer carried out unless:

  1. it is necessary to advance public health; and
  2. there are no other means for doing so.

 

You may also be aware of the fact that their has been a concerted effort, spearheaded by HSUS, to remove chimpanzees from research settings and place them in sanctuaries.

But did you know that 69% of Chimpanzees taken from the MD Anderson Keeling Center (MDAKC) to live in a sanctuary have died — most within a few months?

Sadly, the fact of the matter is a “good intention” is not enough, and no US sanctuary is staffed or equipped to care for chimpanzees like MDAKC.

This blog from Speaking of Research touches on this issue eloquently, using Dr. Cindy Buckmaster, NAIA Board Member and Chair of Americans for Medical Progress as a source.

In fact, many of our chimps would fare better if they were allowed to retire in place. And several of these precious creatures have already suffered and died because the NIH would not allow them to do so. The MD Anderson Keeling Center (MDAKC) in Texas has been home to the healthiest, happiest chimpanzees in America for decades. Their living quarters are comparable to, or better, than any US sanctuary, and none of these sanctuaries can compete with the level of care provided to chimpanzees at MDAKC. The MDAKC staff includes ten full-time veterinarians with a combined total of 92 years of experience caring for chimpanzees; 6 are specially boarded primate veterinarians, 3 are specially boarded veterinary pathologists, and 3 are specially certified to provide laser and acupuncture therapies to supplement traditional treatment regimens. There are also 22 specially trained, full-time technicians devoted to the chimps’ husbandry, health and behavioral needs, including 3 night technicians. MDAKC also has a full-service clinical pathology laboratory on site that allows for the immediate diagnosis and treatment of animals with health concerns. No US sanctuary is staffed or equipped to care for chimpanzees like MDAKC, not one! In fact, the sanctuary that the NIH is forcing us to send our chimpanzees to currently is not even equipped to carry out its own diagnostic lab work. This is concerning, given the advanced age of many research chimpanzees. Honestly, it would make more sense for Dr. Collins to retire the nation’s research chimps to MDAKC!

While we may disagree on the details, we all want to see the animals in our care safe, healthy, and happy. But in our view this is a tragic and clear case of ideology trumping animal welfare, and a story that needs to be told.

 

Maynard, who had a fatal heart attack in the sanctuary the day after he was introduced to a new group of chimpanzees

Maynard, removed from his family at MDAKC, had a fatal heart attack in the sanctuary the day after he was introduced to a new group of chimpanzees.
Photo credit: MDAKC

Dr. Buckmaster’s entire article can be found here, with a subscription.

Feb 27, 2015 - Animal Welfare    1 Comment

The Importance of Knowing Who You’re Getting Your Pet From

Disappointing news out of Arizona:

PetSmart has terminated their adoption partnership with a Valley animal rescue after an ABC15 Investigation uncovered troubling allegations about the group, called Woofs Wiggles n Wags.

According to the investigation, there were cramped cages, and dogs walking through their own waste, suffering from both physical and psychological neglect. Naturally, PetSmart terminated its adoption partnership with the animal rescue upon hearing the news report.

Whatever the reason for these conditions: understaffed and overwhelmed, forgetting or ignoring the needs of these animals due to out-of-balance priorities, or any of the other numerous reasons we see for sub-standard animal care, this serves as a reminder of the importance of getting to know the person or organization you get your pets from. Whatever breeder, rescue, business, or shelter you choose for your next pet, it is vital that you do your research, so can return home with your new companion confident you dealt with somebody who is competent and ethical. This is important for animals in general because you are supporting people who are doing it right — people who truly understand and care for animals; it is important for you and your pet specifically, because it increases your pet’s odds of a long, happy life with you and your family!

Owning a pet can be such a valuable, life-enriching experience; we talk so often about the importance of being a “responsible pet owner” because of the benefits this brings to your pet, to you, and to your community — but the focus is usually on the care and attention your pet receives after coming home. For potential pet owners and their communities, responsible pet ownership starts long before you get your pet!

Jan 23, 2015 - Animal Welfare    No Comments

Horse Rescue: No Fish Story

It’s always cool when somebody saves an animal from peril. And when that animal is a 1,200 pound horse trapped in the swimming pool, and it requires hours and the cooperation of firefighters, firefighters, a large animal rescue, and emergency management personnel… well, it’s not only cool, it’s the kind of story you can bug your children (and your children’s children) with for years to come.

Horse Rescued From Woodford County Pool

It’s great seeing so many people come together to help an animal like this. The cooperation, making sure both human and horse are safe, and in the end: success!

Definitely a nice way to ride out into the weekend.
Horse Riding

Jan 12, 2015 - Animal Welfare    6 Comments

Getting Help for Pet Owners Can Be the Most Humane Place to Start

Some unusual language and questions popped up in a recent article regarding the seizure of 71 dogs:

  • “Often when people get into trouble, animals get into trouble”
  • According to an obituary, Shirley Aguiar’s mother died in 2013, and, according to a customer of the couple, Ed Aguiar lost his job not long before that. But without hearing from the Aguiars directly, it’s impossible to say whether either of these events might have led to mistreatment of their dogs.
  • “I walked in and I said, ‘Shirley?'” Diane said. “It was so dirty, I didn’t even recognize her. It was like something happened and I don’t know if it was just a lack of money, but it was just unkempt.”
  • She said the puppy for the other customer was “covered in poo” and had to be washed. The difference between her two experiences with Aguiar, Diane said, was “so shocking.”

 

Oftentimes in animal seizures, the tone is sensationalist, focusing almost entirely on the treatment and conditions of the animals, painting the animal owner as some kind of heartless monster. Given the kind of clicks you can generate through heartbreak and outrage, it is easy to understand why so many news sources rely on that angle.

But the truth is often a lot more complicated. While there are people in the world who are simply cruel or careless toward animals, so often when you dig deeper into a case of animal abuse you find human beings who are in way over their heads: economic disaster, forced loss of or change in property, the onset of physical or mental illness, becoming caretakers to other family members, etc., etc.

When somebody who has always taken good care of their animals starts to slip up, it is easy to point fingers, to call them evil or greedy or incompetent. Taking the time to find out what has gone wrong, offering help and realistic solutions, and holding an intervention if necessary is more difficult, but can be the key to keeping animals happy, healthy, and in homes with the people they have bonded with.

It is so true that “when people get into trouble, animals get into trouble.” If somebody with a history of being a great caretaker for their animals is in trouble and you are concerned for their pets, seeing if you can get them help (as counter-intuitive as this may seem) should be the first step.

In some cases, getting help for the owners can be the most humane place to start.

 

Jan 5, 2015 - Animal Welfare    2 Comments

Animal Rescue & Shelter: NAIA Glossary Edition

With issues as complex and emotionally charged as animal welfare, simply having a meaningful conversation can be difficult at times. This is especially true in animal rescue and shelter issues, and it can be compounded when the words we use to discuss animal issues mean different things to different people.

So in the interest of clear communication, please take a few minutes to check out the NAIA Shelter Project website’s glossary — if there are ever any questions, it will let you know exactly what we mean when we say it!

Of course, there is more to the Shelter Project than the glossary! Dedicated to understanding shelter population trends, reducing euthanasia of adoptable pets, improving pet health and welfare, reducing infectious and zoonotic disease transmission, and fighting consumer fraud, it is the best source of animal shelter data around!

 

NAIA Shelter Project Glossary

 

Horse Carriage Ban: The Human Cost and Animal Welfare Misinformation

Two New York state senators, Democrats Diane Savino and Jose Peralta, have come out strongly against New York City mayor Bill de Blasio’s push to ban horse carriages. In a letter, they illustrate how the horse carriage industry provides great, unionized work for hundreds of people, that it is a major tourist attraction, and that it is safe and highly regulated — all very good things.

Bravo to Savino and Peralta for standing up and publicly recognizing the human cost of banning horse carriages!

But while this is an important message to get out, the anti-carriage horse activists will not be swayed by talk of jobs and tourism lost; their argument has always been that the horses are being treated cruelly.

This is a serious charge — we all love horses and want to see them treated well. So do these claims of abuse stand up to scrutiny? Not according to the experts who love and heal animals. In a letter to Mayor de Blasio from the New York State Veterinary Medical Society, they state emphatically that opponents of horse-drawn carriages are misinformed about the “inhumane” working conditions for horses, and that:

Carriage horses generally live a long life during which they are ensured regular examinations and treatment by equine veterinarians, live in structurally sound and safe stables, have adequate supply of food and water, and ample opportunities for socialization with others of their species. Existing New York City Regulations offer extensive guidelines that require ample rest periods, moderate driving paces, and protections from extreme weather conditions.

The equine practitioner members of the NYSVMS, both within the City of New York and elsewhere, have familiarized themselves with the conditions under which these animals live and work and find they are healthy, happy, well-fed and sheltered. They are the recipients of the best level of health care possible.

The American Veterinary Medical Association and American Association of Equine Practitioners have weighed in as well, and their accounts of clean stables with healthy, well-fed, and mentally sound horses are also very positive — a far cry from what the anti-carriage horse activists are claiming.

It is telling that people who take the time to visit the horses in their stables confidently declare them “happy and well-cared-for,” while people who have never visited the stables remain convinced that the horses are abused and suffering. Apparently, facts do not matter when you have already made up your mind.

Fortunately, most people do allow reason to shape their opinions. While jobs are obviously very important, it is also important we combat the misinformation about carriage horses that persists despite expert opinion and the facts!

Carriage Horse Central Park

Nov 19, 2014 - Animal Welfare    No Comments

The winner? The carriage horse, of course!

This may be last month’s news, but still worth a look:

Central Park horse carriage rated as better ride than electric car in Car and Driver magazine

As any city carriage driver could have told him, the buggies are surprisingly compact, light and make tight turns. When they’re pulled by one of the placid, experienced horses the drivers barely have to lift a finger to direct them. The hefty horses are adept at speeding up and slowing down their buggies, while the cumbersome electronic car couldn’t quite cut it in the city’s fast-moving traffic.

[…]

The aura of faded gentility, however, is part of what gave the horse carriage experience the most points: authenticity.

The e-vehicles lacked soul and history, Huffman said, and there’s no replacing that no matter how many bells and whistles a vehicle designer adds on.

Aside from the impressive tight turns, the environmental angle, the sense of authenticity and history, there’s something deeper to consider: the connection between horse and driver, the wonder of these incredibly strong and healthy animals doing what they love to do, and of course — the fun (which was ultimately the main reason the Car and Driver reviewer preferred carriage ride). You just can’t replace a good horse.

Definitely a fun little read — our only quibble is that it would have been nice for the review to cover the welfare of the carriage horses as well; the drivers are people who clearly adore their horses and treat them very well, and no matter how many experts speak to the excellent care and treatment these majestic animals receive, it always helps to have another voice countering the anti-horse carriage propaganda machine!

CarriageHorse

Aug 21, 2014 - Animal Welfare    No Comments

Animal Welfare is not Appeasement

“In a perfect world, we would not keep animals for our benefit, including pets,”

Animal rights proponent Tom Regan, emeritus professor of philosophy at NC State University and author of Empty Cages – March 3, 2004


When trying to understand the animal rights mindset, and why they are never satisfied with improvement in animal care and welfare, it is important to remember the above quote.

Because it has never been about humans taking better care of the animals they keep, it is about humans not keeping animals for any reason whatsoever.

So of course it comes as no surprise that SeaWorld’s Larger Killer Whale Habitats Fail To Appease Animal Rights Advocates

SeaWorldBelieveBlog

But the idea that they are trying to appease animal rights advocates misses the point. Animal welfare is not about appeasing ideologues and extremists who will never be happy with you. If that is what you make it about, you’re doing it wrong: the only form of appeasement that works with them is not to keep any animals at all.

Animal welfare is about making sure the animals you care for are not hungry, thirsty, or afraid. It is about providing comfort and preventing pain and injury. And (as in this case) it is about providing an ever-improving environment for them. Animal welfare is for people who actually care about animals.

These are the kind of things normal people care about, and these are the standards being addressed by SeaWorld.

Bolstering the Black Market in Dogs

A raid of a very disturbing breeding operation recently took place in Jacksonville, Florida.

Not only were the breeders selling people sick pets, they were deceptively operating under five different business names, operating without a license, illegally importing dogs from South America, and forging documents. A quick online search reveals numerous complaints from people who had bought sick puppies from them, as well. Dishonest, inhumane, the type of operation that sickens and enrages decent people everywhere.

Every time a breeding operation like this is raided, there are calls for new regulations to “put these awful people out of business.” The fact is, virtually all of the recent raids we have tracked at NAIA are of breeders who are operating like this: illegally without a license (when required) or inspections, or with lapsed license and serious prior violations (where were the follow up inspections?). If current laws aren’t being followed or enforced, what makes anyone think newer, stricter regulations will affect anybody other those who are already complying: licensed, transparent, inspected breeders?

We have taken our share of flack at NAIA for taking a “Why not enforce existing laws first, before passing new laws?” position. Some people confuse this with an opposition to all regulations. Without enforcement, you’ll never get rid of the bad guys (who couldn’t care less about animal care regulations), while knee-jerk legislative responses simply place additional burdens on those who are already complying with the law. Taken to its logical conclusion: in the end all you’ll have left is the black market.

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