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Archive for September, 2006

Dealing with pet loss and grief

I’ve been contacted by three different readers in the last week whose pets have died. All were looking for the names of some good books to help them deal with grief and pet loss.

I have the names of four excellent books on my list. These books should be available through your local bookstore, either in stock or they can order them for you. They should also be available on-line at You can also go on Amazon to read more about each of the books.

** "Maya’s First Rose: Diary of a Very Special Love," by Martin Scot Kosins, Howard Fridson (Illustrator), Burl Ives

** "In Remembrance of a Special Cat: A Collection of Inspirational Writings," By Richard F. X. O’Connor

** "Coping With Sorrow on the Loss of Your Pet," By Moira K. Anderson

** "The Loss of a Pet," By Wallace Sife

Posted on Monday, September 18th, 2006
Under: Pet loss | 2 Comments »

Revenge killing of stingrays?

I found this bizarre little story by Associated Press writer Meraiah Foley, while I was prowling through our electronic wire services this morning:

"SYDNEY, Australia — At least 10 stingrays have been killed since ‘Crocodile Hunter’ Steve Irwin was fatally injured by one of the fish, an official said Tuesday, prompting a spokesman for the late TV star’s animal charity to urge people not to take revenge on the animals.

"Irwin died last week after a stingray barb pierced his chest as he recorded a show off the Great Barrier Reef.

"Stingray bodies since have been discovered on two beaches in Queensland state on Australia’s eastern coast. Two were discovered Tuesday with their tails lopped off, state fisheries department official Wayne Sumpton said."

Michael Hornby, executive director of Irwin’s Wildlife Warriors conservation group, said he was concerned the rays were being hunted and killed in retaliation for Irwin’s death. "Killing stingrays was not what Steve was about," he said.

It’s a curious world we live in, isn’t it?

Posted on Wednesday, September 13th, 2006
Under: Killing, Wildlife | 3 Comments »

Sticky, inhumane killers

Time for my semi-monthly primal scream about those fiendish sticky glue mouse and rat traps that are sold at most hardware and garden supply stores. Please don’t use those torture devices. Cheap? Yes. Effective? Yes. Inhumane and cruel? Yes.

I ran the following question and answer in today’s column in the Times:

Dear Gary: My son sent me this inquiry and I wondered if you could advise him:

Genia: We put out sticky box traps to catch mice in the garden and got one last night, but a hawk came down and took the mouse and part of the (sticky) trap. Do you think it will be OK, because those traps are really sticky and the mouse is probably covered with glue, plus the trap could become stuck on its beak? (Brian)

They live in a new home in the Dougherty Valley in San Ramon and have a constant problem with mice. Thank you for your help. (Genia G., Walnut Creek)

Dear Genia: I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I think those inhumane glue traps are the worst. Most people don’t realize how diabolical they are until they start using them. Your son’s problem is a classic example of the things that can go wrong with those nasty traps.

Let’s hope the hawk doesn’t get caught up in that glue, and let’s also hope the hawk was able to quickly finish putting the poor mouse out of its misery.

Basically, those glue traps work by sticking to the mouse after it’s lured into the trap. The trap is then usually tossed into the trash, where its victim takes three to four days to die.

Please suggest to Brian that the regular old Victor spring mouse traps (available at all hardware stores) work fine and kill the mice instantly. And they don’t stick to hawks.

The above comments have already generated this response:

Dear Gary: I used that type of trap ONE time, and the type of torment I went through can’t even be compared to what that poor little mouse suffered. I didn’t think it through.

If I correctly remember the concept of the individual who brainstormed this thing, the idea is to place the trap and mouse in water to "quickly" drown the mouse. That’s IF you happen to come across the mouse at a stage prior to its death. Initially I considered it "more humane" than a snap trap.

Having a little mouse stare at me prior to so doing didn’t exactly make it simple. Either way it’s torture.

From that point on, I used the "Live ‘No Kill’ Mouse Trap," and released the mouse outside.

Just a note to thank you for emphasizing the cruelty of these traps. (Barbara Yencho, cyberspace)

Thanks for caring, Barbara.

Posted on Tuesday, September 12th, 2006
Under: Killing, Sticky mouse traps | 17 Comments »

A sticky situation

This Pet Poison Alert from the ASPCA’s weekly e-mail newsletter:

"Imagine this scenario: a young boxer pup gets into a tube of polyurethane glue, accidentally left out when his owners were doing home repairs. By the next morning the pup is vomiting, and his abdomen is swollen and tender. A visit to the veterinarian reveals that the expanding adhesive did just that — expand — in the dog’s stomach, turning into a hard, solidified mass requiring emergency surgery.

"But what’s really astounding? The ASPCA Animal Poison Control Center is seeing more and more cases just like this one."

For more details on this sticky problem, visit the ASPCA Web site:

Posted on Friday, September 8th, 2006
Under: dogs, Pet First Aid, Poison | 2 Comments »

Suit seeks humane slaughter for 9 billion farm birds

I received the following press release late Wednesday from The Humane Society of the United States. I felt it was so important, I’m not even going to rewrite and edit it down to a manageable size as I usually do. I want you to read and absorb every single word. Please do. The chance to put an end to the torture of 9 billion animals is no small thing. Go HSUS!

I’ll have more to say about this in my Friday column. You can read that in the Times, or at

SAN FRANCISCO (Sept. 6, 2006) — Today, The Humane Society of the United States hailed a decision by United States District Court Judge Marilyn Hall Patel refusing to dismiss a landmark case challenging the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s policy of excluding chickens, turkeys, and other birds killed for human consumption from the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act of 1958. The suit alleges that current poultry slaughter methods allow more than 9 billion animals to be slaughtered each year without any federal protection from cruelty and increase consumers’ risk of contracting food-borne illness.

"The Court’s decision marks the first step in ensuring that turkeys, chickens, and other birds are protected from inhumane slaughter, as Congress specifically ordered more than 50 years ago," said Sarah Uhlemann, an attorney with the Animal Protection Litigation section of The HSUS who represents the plaintiffs in the case.

The Humane Methods of Slaughter Act (HMSA) explicitly requires that "cattle, calves, horses, mules, sheep,  swine, and other livestock" be slaughtered in accordance with humane methods. Despite the fact that "other livestock" clearly includes animals such as farmed birds, who comprise more than nine out of ten land farm animals killed annually in this country, the USDA interprets this law in a way that excludes chickens, turkeys, and other birds from legal protection.

As a result of the USDA policy, processors continue to slaughter birds using such inhumane methods as shackling fully conscious birds upside-down, electrically stunning them into paralysis, and sometimes even drowning the conscious birds in tanks of scalding water.

According to several recent studies, these methods increase the risk that carcasses will become contaminated with dangerous bacteria that can sicken consumers.

The Court, finding that "plaintiffs credibly allege that they face an imminent exposure to heightened risk that they will become ill from consuming inhumanely slaughtered animals," dismissed the USDA’s attempt to argue that such risk should be ignored. The Court noted that plaintiffs cited the USDA’s own studies to support their argument that current method of slaughtering poultry increase likelihood of bacterial contamination.

When enacting the HMSA, Congress recognized that certain slaughter practices, including hanging conscious animals by their legs from metal shackles and slaughtering animals while still fully conscious, cause "needless suffering." To alleviate this widespread suffering, Congress mandated that all livestock be rendered insensible to pain before shackling and slaughter. Yet each year, thanks to the USDA, more than 9 billion chickens, turkeys, and other birds suffer from these very practices — practices which also increase risk of food poisoning.

Now the USDA’s policy could be overturned.

Recent abuses in poultry slaughter plants across the country have highlighted other far-reaching implications of USDA’s policy of excluding poultry from the HMSA. For example, a 2004 New York Times article graphically reported horrific abuses and "hundreds of acts of cruelty" at a Pilgrim’s Pride chicken slaughter plant in Moorefield, West Virginia, including workers "jumping up and down on live chickens, drop-kicking them like footballs, and slamming them into walls" with the acquiescence of plant supervisors. Likewise, a 2004 investigation of a Perdue poultry slaughter plant in Maryland and a 2005 investigation of a Tyson’s facility in Alabama revealed similar abuses. The workers involved in some of these cruelties were terminated, but neither the workers nor the facilities could be prosecuted under federal law because of USDA’s practice of not applying the HMSA to poultry.

The lawsuit was brought by attorneys with The HSUS and the public interest law firm of Evans & Page on behalf of The HSUS, East Bay Animal Advocates, Equal Justice Center, Western North Carolina Workers Center, and several members of The HSUS who consume poultry products.

Find out more about the work being done by The HSUS on the Internet at

Posted on Thursday, September 7th, 2006
Under: Farm Animals, Humane slaughter | 2 Comments »

Picnic wars

I know a lady in Lafayette who used to feed raccoons in her back yard. Huge numbers of raccoons like you wouldn’t believe. Sometimes 20-30 raccoons a night. These patio parties would also attract skunks, foxes, opossums and even domestic cats. She had these large ceramic bowls she’d fill to the brim with dog and cat kibble, and raccoons and other animals from near and far would come just after dark to take advantage of this grand nightly feast. And when all the food was gone after an hour or so … all you-know-what would break loose in the lady’s Lafayette neighborhood.

Bands of raccoons would visit the yards belonging to the lady’s neighbors and start destroying everything in sight when they didn’t find any food.

The raccoon feeder in Lafayette had created a monster.

Not only was she raining raccoon destruction down on her neighbors, she was also creating a multitude of problems for her wild animal "friends." In the wild, Mother Nature gives her wild animals certain habits and attitudes that keep them away from these kinds of social events. If too many wild creatures gather together regularly, it’s a dangerous way to spread diseases from animal to animal. Especially when different species of animals are brought together. Skunks are the major vectors of rabies (a fatal disease) in California. Foxes can carry canine distemper, and domestic cats carry feline distemper … and raccoons can catch them both.

Instead of doing good things for her raccoon friends with these feedings, the lady in Lafayette may have been killing them.

What a mess.

Posted on Wednesday, September 6th, 2006
Under: Feeding wildlife, Raccoons | No Comments »

Prolific barn owls

Here it is September 1 and I’m lying here in bed listening to baby barn owls screaming for their parents to bring them some gophers to eat. This is the third family of barn owl chicks that prolific pair of barn owls has raised since last spring in the Monterey pine tree just down the hill from my house.

Anybody else getting this kind of barn owl population boom near your house? I’d like to hear about it if you are. Just click on "Comments" (below) and let me know the particulars. (How many families raised this year, how many chicks if you know, when, city or town where you live, nearest cross streets, anything else?)

Just curious.

Posted on Friday, September 1st, 2006
Under: Babies, Barn Owl | 4 Comments »