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Archive for April, 2007

Humane Society of the United States names America’s Most Humane City

San Francisco Bay Area “Most Humane” in the Nation
I know this won’t come as a big surprise to those of us who live here, but the S.F. Bay Area ranks first in compassion for animals according to a new comparison of the largest U.S. cities, The HSUS announced today.

And the S.F. Bay Area didn’t just win — it is more than twice as humane as the average large U.S. city!

The HSUS ranked the 25 largest metropolitan areas according to criteria such as vegetarian restaurants per capita and Congressional leadership on animal issues. Seattle came in second, and Portland rounds out the top three. West Coast cities generally performed better than other areas of the country. Washington, DC, ranked fourth, San Diego fifth, Los Angeles sixth, Boston seventh, Tampa and Baltimore tied for eighth, and Riverside placed tenth.

The Humane Index, an effort to determine America’s most humane city, ranked the nation’s largest 25 metropolitan areas.

“Our society’s treatment of animals has so many facets, and the Humane Index is an attempt to measure a wide range of conduct that has implications for animals. We hope the Index inspires individuals and entire communities to strive to do better to make the world a more merciful place for animals,” said Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO.

The first-ever Humane Index is comprised of a dozen factors selected to provide a basis for comparing the relative humaneness of the nation’s largest metropolitan areas. The Index includes topics related to pets, farm animals, wildlife, animals in entertainment and advocacy for animals and demonstrates that Americans extend their compassion beyond the millions of pets who share our homes.

The full results are available on-line at This interactive web site allows you to view details on each index item, see how various cities rank, compare two cities, and learn how you can take action to make your city more humane.

The Humane Index revealed several positive aspects about the treatment of animals in the Bay Area, which makes the top five in all but four categories and the top ten in all but two.

** Puppy savers. San Francisco is the top city in avoiding the cruelty of puppy mills, with only nine percent of pet stores selling puppies from commercial operations that breed dogs in shockingly poor conditions.

** Grabbing cameras, not shotguns. In California, there are 20.9 wildlife watchers for every hunter.

** Eating their veggies. The Bay Area places first for humane dining, with 40 vegetarian/vegan restaurants.

HSUS chief economist Jennifer Fearing conceived of and developed the Humane Index project over the last several years with research support from the Seattle-based Humane Research Council. The 2007 edition of the Humane Index is the first attempt to determine how America’s biggest metro areas — making up 41 percent of total U.S. population and including nearly 5,000 cities and towns — rank in terms of animal protection issues and will provide a baseline for future reference.

“With its wealth of vegetarian restaurants, a dozen institutions that have adopted cage-free egg policies, and only 10 fur retailers, it’s no surprise that San Francisco, which is named for the patron saint of animals, is America’s most humane city,” said Fearing. “But despite its excellent record, there is always room for improvement.”

The HSUS says the Bay Area has room for improvement in the following areas:

** San Francisco has numerous markets where turtles, fish, frogs, and other live animals are sold for food. In 2000, a law was passed to protect frogs, turtles and birds under California animal cruelty statutes that prohibit stores from skinning and dismembering live animals or storing and displaying them in ways likely to result in injury, starvation, or suffocation.

** Pitbulls and pit mixes are by far the most frequently confiscated dogs in Oakland — and are also the breed most often euthanized at shelters across Alameda County. Animal control officers usually pick these dogs up roaming the streets, many of them abused, scarred and unfit for adoption. According to the interim director of Oakland Animal Services, backyard breeders are the heart of the problem.

HSUS developed the Humane Index to show how individual action adds up to create humane communities. The study will be repeated every two years. You can read more about HSUS and its many great animal programs at

It will be interesting to see if there are any improvements over the next two years, and what cities make them.

Any bets?

Posted on Monday, April 30th, 2007
Under: HSUS names most humane city | 2 Comments »

How does a cat find its way home after being lost for a year?

George the cat finds his way home
Where does a family cat go when it suddenly disappears? How does the cat find its way back home a year later?

Check out this amazing story:

Dear Gary:
George the cat was born in March, 2005. He was deeply loved by our two dogs and one other cat, as well as by all the humans at home. George was an indoor/outdoor cat and always came inside for dinner. He never missed a meal.

Then one day in July, 2006, George disappeared.

We were very distraught and tried to find him. Time passed and we lost hope.

On Wednesday, April 18, 2007, at 11:30 a.m., I received a call on my cell phone when I was at work. Mary Ann of the Feral Cat Program at the San Francisco SPCA asked if I had a cat named George. I couldn’t believe what I heard!

“San Francisco? I live in Concord. How did he get to S.F.? Where has he been for the last year?”

She said George had been living down by the docks on S.F. Bay, and the workers there had been feeding him. Then one man said that he thought George was a great cat to give to his friend so he brought George to the SPCA to be checked out. He thought George was female because all the workers called him “Lucy,” and “Lucy” appeared to be pregnant.

Much to everyone’s surprise, Lucy was a George and also had a microchip. The microchip information said George had owners who lived in Concord. So they gave me a call.

At the SPCA, George didn’t remember me, but I was able to coax him to come with me and we drove back to Concord to see his veterinarian .

I bent everyone’s ears with the story of our lost George, and their response was one of disbelief.

“What an incredible story!”

“Too bad George couldn’t talk and tell us everything.”

Later on that day, I called and thanked the gentleman who brought George in to the SPCA. His name is Glenn Phillips of San Francisco. Glenn said that he has taken care of feral cats for the last five years down at Pier 70 in S.F. Pier 70 is a little south of the Giant’s “new” stadium.

He said George was “hanging out” with a colony of eight cats, who all seemed to get along. He reported that George appeared on the scene about nine months ago, then disappeared at some point for two months, then reappeared.

I am so grateful that Glenn turned George over to the SPCA. I am also grateful for all the people, such as Glenn, who take their love, time and money to care for lost feline souls. I am also grateful for the microchip implant system.

I am happy to report that George seems to have acclimated to all of us at home, and our two dogs and one cat have reclaimed and accepted him. We will keep him indoors from now on.

I hope you enjoy our amazing story about George as so many other people have. (Amber Steward-Davis, Concord)

It’s interesting that George the cat has been hanging around Pier 70 in San Francisco for the last year. Knowing cats, maybe he was trying to jump a tramp steamer and see the world. /Gary

Posted on Friday, April 27th, 2007
Under: Cats | 4 Comments »

The contaminated pet food story continues: hogs and poultry also got tainted food

Is the human food supply also at risk?
In today’s Boston Globe, a story by Diedtra Henderson of the Globe Staff reported, “Thousands of hogs in at least five states and poultry at a Missouri farm ate salvage pet food that had been laced with an industrial chemical, the Food and Drug Administration said yesterday, opening potential avenues for the contaminant to enter the human food supply.”

In addition, the FDA is testing rice protein concentrate for a second contaminant, cyanuric acid, a chemical used as a pool cleaner that is high in nitrogen. The Globe story says the FDA’s theory is that rogue suppliers in China added melamine and other compounds to inferior protein products, artificially inflating their nitrogen content and price.

Another wire story today by Associated Press writer Andrew Bridges said it was not immediately clear if any hogs that ate the tainted feed, then entered the food supply for humans.

According to today’s AP story, “The FDA also said it planned to begin testing a wide variety of vegetable proteins at firms that imported the ingredients to make everything from pizza dough to infant formula, and protein shakes to energy bars. The ingredient list includes wheat gluten, corn gluten, corn meal, soy protein and rice bran.”

The AP story said Dr. David Acheson, chief medical officer within the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, “stressed that there was no evidence any of the other vegetable proteins had been contaminated, but that the FDA wanted to ‘get ahead of the curve’ and raise awareness among manufacturers.”

You can read the complete Boston Globe story by Diedtra Henderson at:

Please excuse me, but I have to leave now. We can continue this chat tomorrow.

I have to go water my garden … and pick out a spot in my back yard to build the new chicken coop.

Posted on Wednesday, April 25th, 2007
Under: Pet food | No Comments »


Check out Benicia’s baby barn owls on the netcam at
There’s been so much bad news to talk about these last few weeks … contaminated pet foods being recalled … now what do we feed our pets? … stopping puppy mills … what’s really in pet foods? … I think it’s time to talk about something pleasant for a change.

Like the cute little fuzzy barn owl chicks that have just hatched out in a special nest box in Benicia. The barn owl chicks are being raised by their barn owl parents, Frida and Diego.

What makes this particular nest box so special is the fact that there is a video camera focused on the interior of the box so you can watch the baby barn owls growing up, 24/7. It’s really fun!

Here’s a note I just received from Scott Zoog, the nice man who set up the nest box and has been photographing those little owls for us for the last few years:

Hi OwlFans!
The much anticipated 7th hatching finally occurred on Friday! Here is a nice shot of the empty egg just moments after Frida helped the 7th owlet out of it:

Here is another good shot at feeding time, at least five owlets can be seen:

Until Next Time, Happy Owl Watching! (Scott,

** To join TheOwlList and receive regular e-mail updates on what’s happening with the baby owls, send a blank e-mail to:

For those of you who are REALLY interested in peeking into some nest boxes of other bird species around the country, you can also check out the nestbox cams at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Have fun! /Gary

Posted on Monday, April 23rd, 2007
Under: Barn Owl | 5 Comments »


Humane Society of the United States sets up Pet Food Safety Information Line
The Humane Society of the United States has just set up a regularly updated pet food safety information line with the most up-to-the-minute pet food recall information, including a list of all companies involved in the recall and ways to determine if your pet’s food was affected.

By calling 1-800-Humane-1 (1-800-486-2631), you’ll hear a short personal message from HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle, and can then choose from among these three areas:
** Updated recall information on pet food and treats;
** Tips on what you can do to protect your pets;
** How you can help.

Concerned pet guardians can also visit The HSUS on-line pet food safety center at

“Pets are cherished members of our family and they deserve high-quality, safe, nutritious food,” said Pacelle.

We should all keep in mind that 60 percent of U.S. households have pets, so this recall affects millions.

The HSUS also supports efforts by several members of Congress to find out exactly what happened and how it can be prevented in the future. We need to get going on this because I don’t think this problem is going to be resolved for a very … long … time. I think we’re only looking at the tip of the proverbial iceberg.

You can find out more about The HSUS and its many animal-related programs at

Posted on Thursday, April 19th, 2007
Under: Pet food | No Comments »


Melamine found to contaminate a second pet food ingredient, expanding the recall further
Associated Press wire story, April 18, by Andrew Bridges:

WASHINGTON (AP) — An industrial chemical that led to a nationwide recall of more than 100 brands of cat and dog foods has been found to contaminate a second pet food ingredient, expanding the recall further.

The chemical, melamine, is believed to have contaminated rice protein concentrate used to make a variety of Natural Balance Pet Foods products for both dogs and cats, the Food and Drug Administration said Wednesday. Previously, the chemical was found to contaminate another ingredient, wheat gluten, used by at least six other pet food and treat manufacturers.

Natural Balance said it was recalling all its Venison and Brown Rice canned and bagged dog foods, its Venison and Brown Rice dog treats and its Venison and Green Pea dry cat food.

The Pacoima, Calif., company said recent laboratory tests showed the products contain melamine. It believes the source of the contaminant was rice protein concentrate, which the company recently added to the dry venison formulas. Natural Balance does not use wheat gluten, which was associated with the previous melamine contamination, it said.

Last month, Menu Foods recalled 60 million cans of dog and cat food after the deaths of 16 pets, mostly cats, that ate its products. The FDA said tests indicated the food was contaminated with melamine, used in making plastics and other industrial processes. Five other companies later recalled pet products also made with wheat gluten tainted by the chemical.

The FDA has since blocked Chinese imports of wheat gluten. An FDA spokeswoman did not immediately return messages left seeking comment.

** What is the FDA doing about the pet food recall situation? Plus LOTS of other pertinent information can be found at

Menu Foods has also added another pet food to its pet food recall list:
The product is Natural Life dog food with a date on the bottom of the can of Nov/22/09 and UPC number of 12344-07114. Do NOT feed this to your pets.

** A complete, updated list of all recalled Menu Foods products can be seen at

Posted on Wednesday, April 18th, 2007
Under: Pet food | No Comments »


Orinda Union School District invites you to celebrate their 6th Annual Wildlife Festival
WHEN: Sunday, April 22, 1-4 p.m.

WHERE: OUSD’s Wagner Ranch Nature Area, adjacent to Wagner Ranch Elementary School, 350 Camino Pablo Road, Orinda

Refreshments Provided

FUN ACTIVITIES: Learn about composting, take a hike, create leaf T-shirts, study a dragonfly, make an origami pot, the ABC’s of recycling … and LOTS more!

Stories, Questions and Answers: Gary Bogue, Pet & Wildlife Columnist, Contra Costa Newspapers, MediaNews Group

Backyard Wildlife Certification: Cecil Williams, Wild Birds Unlimited

Living With Nature: Diana Granados, Native Bird Connections

California Blue Bird Recovery Program: Georgette Hellington

Benefits of Bats in Our Midst: Bob Wisecarver, Walnut Creek

The Dragonfly Experience: Douglas Vaughan

Math in The Garden: Kathy Barrett

Buzzing With Bees: Steve Gentry

Life Garden: Judy Adler

Reuse as Art: Madame Ovary

Leaf Print T-shirts: Katy O’Neill

The Ins and Outs of Composting: Bart Carr

Connecting With Our Creeks: Cinda MacKinnon

Meeting Our Water Company: Roger Hartwell, EBMUD

Author of Biographies and Nature Related Books: Ginger Wadsworth

Native American Drum and Dance Performance: Director Mary Putoff, Livermore Indian Center

Live Music: Directed by Dr. James Fiatarone, performed by the students of ALMA

Musical Performance: Eli and Esther Slaman

4th Grade Student Drawings of Ceanothus: Hillery Paterson and OUSD Art teachers

Wagner History, Photos and Artifacts: Barbara Burkhalter, Orinda Historical Society

Native Plants, Student Grown Plants and Cacti, Compost and T-shirts: Available for sale

SPONSORS: OUSD, EFO, Parents, Students, Teachers, Rotary Club, Orinda Garden Club, Orinda Park and Recreation Foundation, Contra Costa Clean Water Program, EBMUD, Contra Costa Solid Waste Authority, Stopwaste, Friends of the Wagner Ranch Nature Area

I’ll be sitting there on my chair next Sunday from 1-4 p.m., ready to answer all your questions, exchange jokes with you, or just have a nice friendly chat about anything you’d like to talk about.

If you’ve got any of my books and would like to bring them with you so I can autograph them for you, please do so. I’ll even provide the pen. Looking forward to seeing you! This Wildlife Festival is a LOT of fun. You’ll REALLY enjoy yourself. If you’ve got a family, be sure and bring the kids. This is my 6th year. /Gary

Posted on Monday, April 16th, 2007
Under: Fun things to do | No Comments »


Paying $$ to rescue puppy mill dogs is the wrong way to go because it makes this sleazy business profitable

We ran a story Friday by Douglas Fischer of the MediaNews staff, about a Fremont veterinarian who is flying back to Arkansas with $9,000 in donations and savings to “buy what dogs she can from a kennel liquidation auction in Arkansas on Saturday.”

She will not be buying puppies, “She’ll be buying breeding stock (adult dogs) … in an effort to break the chain.”

I know her heart is in the right place, but her head isn’t.

Puppy mills are a nasty business. They mass produce animals by the box full, generally under disgusting conditions, and then sell the puppies at inflated prices through the internet and pet stores. While the puppies are being sold, their parents “are kept in wire cages and forced to breed litter after litter until they’re too worn or weak to continue.”

A lot of work is being down by humane organizations to put an end to this scummy business. Work is bring done to get legislation passed in states where puppy mills are thriving.

What we should NOT be doing is rewarding these puppy mill breeders by buying up their “products,” no matter how much we feel in our hearts for the plight of these poor dogs.

As Fischer says in his story, this is a market-driven industry. A Fremont veterinarian flying to Arkansas with $9,000 to buy dogs from puppy mills is not the best way to put an end to puppy mills. It fact, she is rewarding them.

This was a legitimate story for us to run. We should all be aware these things are going on. However, I think it’s important for us to also know the downside of this veterinarian’s actions.

I was particularly bothered by the little box we printed in the middle of the story, “HOW TO HELP,” telling you how you can make donations to this veterinarian’s cause.

If you were thinking about doing that, please at least give it a second thought.

The story says the veterinarian hopes to buy as many as 90 dogs. As the story also says, “For every breeder rescued, one or more will fill her place.”

You can read the whole story here:

Do you really want to help put an end to puppy mills?
The Humane Society of the United States just send me a press release entitled: “Consumer Scam: Internet Puppy Sales.”

“The Humane Society of the United States reports an increase in puppy sale Web sites and a rise in complaints from heartbroken consumers scammed by these virtual pet stores. Similar to reports from people who unknowingly purchase sick and dying dogs from pet stores, puppies sold over the internet are likely to be from puppy mills. The HSUS is determined to stop on-line puppy sales.

“Puppy mills are factory-like facilities, churning out large numbers of purebreds who are then sold to the public via pet stores and over the internet by people claiming to be reputable breeders.”

For more information on finding a reputable breeder, buying or adopting a dog, and about puppy mills, visit … or …

Posted on Friday, April 13th, 2007
Under: Puppy Mills | 1 Comment »

Organic Pet Foods

Is organic pet food the way to go?

RECALL UPDATE: Menu Foods has again expanded its recall of contaminated pet food by adding more kinds of cat food. You can find a list of ALL the recalled foods at

Here are some interesting quotes relating to the pet food recall and organic pet foods, from a story by Katie Zezima from the New York Times News Service on Wednesday, April 11:

“For pet food to be labeled organic, at least 95 percent of the ingredients must be certified organic for human consumption, said Andrea Caroe, chairwoman of the National Organic Standards Board, which is part of the FDA.”

“Andi Brown, founder of Halo Pet Foods, which says it takes a holistic approach to pet care, selling food made from human-grade ingredients as well as herbal grooming aids and supplements, said sales of certain food products had increased more than 90 percent since mid-March. Internet orders have doubled, Brown said.” You can learn more about Halo at
(Now Available: Andi Brown’s New Book: “The Whole Pet Diet; Eight Weeks to Great Health for Dogs & Cats,” forward by Richard Pitcairn, DVM. Published by Celestian Arts, an imprint of Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA … 510-559-1600 …

“Brad Weasner, who runs, which sells natural pet products, says food sales had more than doubled. ‘I’ve always worked seven days a week, but since the pet food recalls I’ve never worked so many hours.’”

“John Gigliotti, owner of, which sells natural dog, cat and bird food, says business was up 30 percent to 40 percent, spurred mostly by word of mouth. Many customers he talks to are disturbed that officials still do not know whether the melamine made pets sick, he said, and Gigliotti said he thought the recall would lead to a long-term rise in organic pet food sales. ‘When the dust settles and we know what happened, it will simply reinforce what we’ve been talking about for years, which is economy-minded manufacturers use economy ingredients.’ Gigliotti said. “Now people want to know all the behind-the-scenes stuff.’”

If anyone has anything they’d like to add to the above, just click on “Comments” below and type away.

Posted on Wednesday, April 11th, 2007
Under: Pet food | 1 Comment »


It’s time for the Third annual Gary’s Wildest Bird Nest Contest!
CATEGORIES: Most Unusual Nest Building Materials; Flimsiest Nest; Weirdest Nest Location; Most Unique Bird; Most Artistic Nest. A Grand Prize will be awarded for the Most Wonderful Nest of All. (More on this later.)

GREAT PRIZES: fancy new feeders, fancy birdseed, bird books and more, all donated by East Bay Nature, 1270A Newell Ave., Walnut Creek; Wild Birds Unlimited, 692 Contra Costa Blvd., Pleasant Hill; Wild Birds Unlimited, 7182 Regional St., Dublin.

RULES: Nest must be on your property in the San Francisco Bay Area. There are two ways to enter:

1. Send your name, address, phone number, nest category, a written description of nest and a photograph of the nest — do not send the actual nest! — to: Third annual Gary’s Wildest Bird Nest Contest, c/o Times, P.O. Box 8099, Walnut Creek, CA 94596-8099. Nest pictures should be newspaper-worthy, printed on photo paper.

2. Or you can e-mail your name, address, phone number and all those other details along with your nest photo attached (JPEGs only) to

EXTRA: Enter as many different nests in as many different categories as you want. Each entry and photo must be in a separate letter or e-mail. Photos of winning nests will appear in a story I’ll be writing after the contest ends.

SPEAKING OF NESTS: Be very careful and don’t frighten the birds!

DEADLINE: Entries must be received at the Times, Walnut Creek, by 5 p.m. April 20.

JUDGES: Gary Bogue; Tut the Cat Bogue (he promised he’d wash my car if I let him do this); Diana Granados, Native Bird Connections; Marty Buxton, collections manager, Lindsay Wildlife Museum.

Posted on Tuesday, April 10th, 2007
Under: Bird nests | 2 Comments »