Category Archives: X issues & dialogs

Fear makes us a fearful society: Cat Lady Suicide and Lennox the Dog

Two stories about human society’s interaction with domestic pets have become viral news sensations of late. Both stories illustrate how fear and irrational belief can turn a few facts into propaganda with disastrous consequences.

Gray Maine Coon Cat in window
Digital art by BZTAT

One of these stories recently led on all major news outlets. The “Crazy Cat Lady Suicide” story reinforced the myth that women who love cats are nuts, and it unnecessarily promoted fear about having cats as pets. The story over sensationalized a few facts about Toxoplasma gondii infection, a serious but rare illness. Stories about recent research were thinly sourced and poorly examined, as this excellent Catster article by JaneA Kelley explains.

The impact is a clear, but false message: Cats kill you and make you crazy.

Never mind all that research validating that pets, including cats, have numerous benefits for enhancing human mental health.

Lab Pit Bull Mix dog art by BZTAT
Digital art by BZTAT

The other story is more tragic. It is the story of Lennox, the dog who was taken from his family simply because he looked like a breed of dog banned in his city of Belfast, Ireland.

Lennox never harmed or even threatened to harm anyone. He was loving family pet. His breed was never determined. Yet his appearance suggested that he was a pit bull terrier mix, a banned breed. He was removed from his family needlessly by authorities driven by irrational fears.

After a lengthy legal battle and worldwide campaign to save him, Lennox was euthanized this morning. His family and supporters around the globe are beset by needless grief.

Vicious dogs and pet-to-human transmission of diseases are serious concerns. They require rational consideration and sensible responses by our human society, not the crazed sensationalism that these two stories represent.

Irrational fears fueled by propaganda make us a fearful and fearsome society. We are to be feared more than the innocent animals to whom we ascribe blame for the dangers to humanity.

Breed specific legislation (BSL) such as that in Belfast is an ineffective over-reaction to a serious problem. Sensationalizing the story of toxoplasmosis is irresponsible journalism that takes away from responsibly educating the public about a rare but serious disease.

Our response to legitimate concerns are tragically taking us further away from effectively managing the problems we created by domesticating animals in the first place.

When will we ever learn?

“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt

BZTAT

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Animal abuse is linked to more than the rare and bizarre murders of Dahmer and Magnotta

We awakened today to the news that alleged killer Luka Rocco Magnotta has been arrested in a Berlin internet cafe. Accused of murdering and dismembering a man, filming his actions, and sending severed body parts to politicians, Canada’s most notorious criminal was the subject of a worldwide manhunt.

A collective sigh of relief can be heard echoing from continent to continent regarding his capture.

Magnotta’s grisly crime was foreshadowed by reports that he filmed his prior actions of killing kittens in a video posted on the web. Animal rights activists have been tracking him long before the crime that led to his most recent notoriety.

By many accounts, Magnotta was a deeply disturbed individual. His profile is both bizarre and grotesque. As we learn more about him, we are likely to find that his behavior and personality are well outside of what most of us could conceive as human.

Many notoriously bizarre killers abused and killed animals before they killed human beings. Jeffy Dahmer, comes to mind, as do Ted Bundy and David Berkowitz. As a result of this knowledge, we typically connote animal abuse with the most heinous of crimes. As we should.

Yet these types of crimes are rare (thank God). Other crimes that are linked to animal abuse are not. Child abuse and domestic violence occur every minute of the day.

Thankfully, few animal abusers go on to commit grisly murders. Many more than we can imagine, however, DO act out violently towards women and children and other vulnerable people in less known crimes.

As important as it is to take note of the links between animal abuse and serial killers, it is even more important to recognize the links to the more prevalent crimes of domestic violence and child abuse.

Children who harm animals need intervention. Not because they will grow up to be like Jeffrey Dahmer or Luka Rocco Magnotta, but because they are likely to grow up to be like the person(s) who abused them.

When animals are suffering in society, children are too. When there is violence to animals, there is likely violence to children and others who may be defenseless.

If you are aware of abuse to animals, please act and seek help. The animals deserve this, as do the humans who maybe subject to the abuser’s rage as well.

You may prevent a wayward person from becoming a serial killer, but more likely, you will prevent them from becoming a child or partner abuser.

And that is as important as anything.

BZTAT

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News Release: Be Kind to Animals Week and the Compassion Movement

I rarely print something in this space that is not of my own writing,  but I believe that this news release in its entirety is important to share. This week is “Be Kind to Animals Week”, sponsored by the longstanding American Humane Association, and I hope that you will share the information in their news release below with others, so that we can help the “Compassion Movement” grow. Thanks for reading and sharing!

Organization that Helped Found Humanitarian Efforts in the 1800s Joins with Celebrities and Supporters to Enlist Advocates for 21st Century Problems

WASHINGTON, D.C. – During this year’s “Be Kind to Animals Week®” (May 6-12), the organization that helped found America’s original “Compassion Movement” in the 1870s is putting out an urgent plea and opening its membership for the first time to the general public, imploring them to protect more of the nation’s 10 billion+ farm animals, 3-4 million shelter animals who are euthanized yearly, and thousands of animals who are being hurt in natural disasters and cruelty cases.

“The need has never been greater,” says Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of American Humane Association. “We have made gigantic strides in the past century, pioneering many of the key advances in protecting our nation’s children and animals, but there are still huge numbers in critical need of lifesaving care. We are putting out a call to the American public during Be Kind to Animals Week to get involved and become part of a new 21st century Compassion Movement that will help millions more of our most vulnerable to be kept safe, protected, and loved. So many animals are still suffering and can’t wait any longer.”

Some major names are heeding that call, including celebrities such as beloved actress and animal lover Betty White, who has a long history with American Humane Association and has agreed to be the chair of this year’s “Be Kind to Animals Week,” which the charity launched back in 1915. In an email message to half a million supporters, Ms. White is asking fans and animal lovers to help by joining as supporting members now.

“As far as I am concerned, every week should be ‘Be Kind to Animals Week,'” said Ms. White. “To make that possible for more animals, please join American Humane Association’s new membership program. In fact, as a challenge for my 90th birthday — I would like 9,000 new members to join this very week!”

In addition to the good feeling of helping helpless animals, those who visit www.behumane.org and join at the Compassion Club level of $50 a month will be entered to win two tickets to the American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards in Hollywood and a VIP visit with Hero Dog headliner Betty White!

Other major celebrities, charities, and companies are posting, tweeting, and otherwise spreading the word, encouraging Americans to get off the sidelines and actively become a voice for the voiceless, joining an effort that pioneered virtually every major advance in child and animal welfare. Did you know AHA:

  • Worked to champion protections for farm animals back in 1877?
  • Worked to save thousands of wounded horses on the battlefields during World War I?
  • Helped save the bald eagle?
  • Founded its famed Film and TV Unit in 1940 to make sure “No Animals Were Harmed®” for the sake of entertainment?
  • Was a leader in tackling pet overpopulation, spay and neuter, and “puppy mills”?
  • Created Adopt-a-Dog Month® and Adopt-A-Cat Month® to encourage adoption from overcrowded animal shelters and save millions of innocent lives?
  • Has rescued more than 64,000 animals following hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and other disasters in just the past five years?
  • Ensures the humane treatment of more than 135 million farm animals?

“American Humane Association helped found our nation’s Compassion Movement 135 years ago and we made a huge difference,” said Dr. Ganzert. “Today, we need every American to join in an ambitious new effort to bring hope, help and comfort to millions in need. What better time to consider joining American Humane Association as a supporting member of the most compassionate club than during Be Kind to Animals Week? Please take just a moment and visit us at www.behumane.org. Thank you!”

Thank YOU American Humane Association for all of your good work!!!

BZTAT

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Trap-Neuter-Return for perpetuity’s sake

managed TNR feral cat colony

Solid research backs up the claims.

Carefully managed feral cat colonies with TNR programs reduce the number of feral cats, thereby reducing the number of problems associated with them.

Trap and remove programs that attempt to eradicate cat populations are plagued with a never ending supply of cats that take the place of the removed ones, thereby increasing the number of problems associated with feral cats.

Cats managed through TNR receive vaccinations and they no longer mate, so the health concerns and nuisance behaviors are drastically reduced. The altered cats protect their colony from interlopers, so their populations stabilize.

The opposite happens in a trap-remove program. There are no vaccinations to reduce the chances of animal to human transmission of diseases. The cats continue to mate, creating more nuisance behaviors. And the cat population increases exponentially.

Conventional wisdom says that killing cats will get rid of a feral cat problem, and get rid of the health risks to which public health officials raise alarm. But there is nothing conventional or wise about that belief.

The opposite is true. The only way reduce the number of problems with feral cats is to spay/neuter them, and then allow them to manage their own populations.

The truth is, TNR = fewer cats = fewer health risks to humans = fewer nuisance behaviors = a safer and more humane society to live within.

St. James Church in New York City has had a model TNR program for feral cats for many years. Recently, they abruptly decided to stop the program and they forbade caregivers from feeding the cats. The misguided goal was to eradicate the cats, hoping that they would just move on from the Church’s property. Unfortunately, that isn’t the way that cats behave.

Luckily, the Archdiocese of New York agreed to meet with TNR advocates from the NYC Feral Cat Initiative. When they met, they learned that 1) eradication was futile and 2) keeping the managed colony would get them closer to their objective than eradication attempts would. A temporary resolution allowing the cats to stay has been developed, and more permanent planning is taking place.

Hurrah!

Sadly, another model program has had an unhappier ending.

Loews Portofino Bay Hotel & Loews Royal Pacific Resort in Orlando, FL have for years allowed a colony of cats to reside on their properties, tended by staff and volunteers. Inexplicably, the hotel chain recently decided to eradicate the cats. They refused to listen to advocates or consult with experts, unlike the leaders at St. James Church.

Loews even went so far as to threaten their staff with reprisals if they chose to ignore the new policy. The hotels further enlisted the services of an exterminator who reportedly is trapping the cats in a manner that leaves them highly stressed, urine soaked, and with bloodied noses.

A worldwide outcry for this small group of cats has ensued, and is likely to damage Loews’ brand as a “pet friendly” hotel. They seem to think the furor will eventually die down, but they may be surprised.

The Loews cats are being relocated and not euthanized, thanks to the efforts of Orange County Animal Services and CARE Feline TNR. Relocation is a risky and non-optimal solution, but it is better than euthanization.

All of this brings up some serious considerations for public and private efforts to establish TNR programs. These recent events suggest that it is not sufficient to create a program without putting serious thought into its future sustainability. Once advocates have succeeded in developing programs, they must find ways to establish perpetuity for TNR’s continued success with specific cat colonies.

Otherwise, model colonies that are functioning well will all be vulnerable to changes in leadership and misguided changes in policy.

As we approach leaders in my community of Canton, OH to create a municipal program, we must think beyond our current scenarios and current volunteers as we create a program that will hopefully outlive us all. We need to think about how to prevent the threats that have faced the St. James cats and the Loews cats.

I want to ensure that Canton’s cats will be protected from those who refuse to listen to research and true wisdom.

Any thoughts or suggestions? We are all ears, ear-tipped and all.

Life is an Adventure!

BZTAT

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