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Archive for January, 2008

Should cats be free to wander while dogs must be confined or on a leash?

Staff Writer Meera Pal, who covers Pleasanton, wrote a story in Wednesday’s Times (Jan. 30), about a Pleasanton woman whose cat was mauled to death by two dogs that had escaped their backyard.

Meera sent me an e-mail this morning describing the many on-line comments and phone calls she has received from readers, debating back and forth about whether the cat should have been outside its house to begin with.

Some even felt that the cat’s death was partly the cat owner’s fault, as well as partly the dog owner’s fault. Others felt it is unfair that cats are free to wander on the streets, while dogs must be kept confined or on a leash.

Meera thought I might be interested in blogging about it. She’s right.

I think this debate has been going on LOTS longer than the measly 38 years I’ve been writing this column.

I know how I feel about it.

My two cats, Tut and Newman, are indoor cats. It’s too dangerous outside for cats these days. They’re at risk from disease, cars, dogs, other meaner cats, humans who don’t want cats pooping in their yards, coyotes, etc. There are reports that say indoor cats can live up to five years longer than outdoor cats.

Just as important … I don’t want my cats to be wandering around the ecosystem killing wild birds, lizards, snakes, frogs and other wild creatures. That also puts the cats into the food chain where they can be preyed on by predators bigger than they are.

Read Meera’s story and then scroll down further to read the reader comments:

What are your thoughts on this? /Gary

Posted on Thursday, January 31st, 2008
Under: Cats, dogs | 8 Comments »

Big dog show on Saturday (Feb. 2)

You can watch it on Saturday at 8 p.m. (Eastern and Pacific) on the Animal Planet and Discovery Channels.

It’s the seventh annual AKC/Eukanuba National Championship. TV Guide recently included the event on a list of “21 Shows You’ve Gotta See,” calling it “the annual best-in-showcase of toys, terriers and other classy canines.”

Hosted by Bob Goen with play-by-play commentary from Lee Arnold and Edd Bivin, viewers can watch the competition and learn about the world of dog shows, as well as over 150 dog breeds.

The AKC/Eukanuba National Championship will repeat multiple times following the premiere. For more information, visit:

February is REALLY the month for super dog shows. On Feb. 11-12 you can watch the Olympics of all dog shows (and my favorite!) … the 132nd Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Gardens in New York City. It will be broadcast live both nights on the USA Network ( Nov. 11, 8-9 p.m.; Nov. 12, 8-11 p.m.).

More on this next week, but if you can’t wait, check out

Have fun! Woof! /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, January 30th, 2008
Under: Dog Show, dogs | No Comments »

12th Annual San Francisco Bay Flyway Festival

Do you like wild birds?

The 12th Annual San Francisco Bay Flyway Festival takes place on Mare Island in Vallejo, Feb. 1-3. The Festival attracts more than 6,000 people from the Central Valley, North Coast and all points of the San Francisco Bay Area to the free event.

Activities for all ages and skills are scheduled both indoors and outdoors. Beginning bird-watchers are welcome!

Migrating birds are most abundant during the midwinter at the local National Wildlife Refuges, State Wildlife Areas and private lands, which attract over 1 million shorebirds and hundreds of thousands of waterfowl that migrate through or winter in the San Francisco Bay region.

** The Wildlife Discovery Expo features native wild birds from Native Bird Connections, hands-on activities for children, natural resource, historic, recreational and birding equipment exhibits and numerous guided wetland, historic and birding tours on Mare Island.

** Sacramento based Crane Culture Theater performs Lord of the Cranes, an ancient Chinese folk tale of good fortune, and affinity with nature in a program of dance, music and masked actors, for the first time in the Bay Area.

** Visit St. Peter’s Chapel, adorned with the most Tiffany stained glass in the West.

** Travel at your own pace on a self-guided birding walk or a 5k and 10k Volkswalk.

** There are 60 outings led by naturalists scheduled throughout the region during the only 3-day birding Festival in the Bay Area.

The Festival is a project of Arc Ecology and sponsored by dozens of local Bay Area environmental groups and businesses. Call 707-557-9816 or visit for a complete list of all activities, maps on how to get there, and more.

Do you like wild birds? Then spread your wings and fly on over this weekend for a really FUN time! /Gary

Posted on Tuesday, January 29th, 2008
Under: Bird Watching, Birds | No Comments »

Point Reyes National Seashore’s white deer are being slaughtered

The government is busy these days. First they want to kill wolves in Alaska, Montana, Wyoming … and now the National Park Service is killing the white deer at Point Reyes.

The park service says the deer are not part of the native ecosystem, and they want them to be gone NOW. They plan to kill 1,100 non-native fallow and axis deer. There has been considerable debate on this, with many people and organizations arguing that the deer can be controlled by humane management and not killing.

1,100 deer is a lot of death.

I received the following information this morning from Friends of the White Deer:
This week, a major slaughter (about 400+ deer already killed to date) of the non-native deer at Point Reyes National Seashore here in California is scheduled to continue, according to local residents in the area. Hired killers from a company called White Buffalo, Inc. are being paid to do the dirty job.

The deer have been there since they were brought to the National Seashore in 1948.

Helicopters will herd a hundred deer into a “hole” where they will be shot en masse.

The roster of those opposed to this inhumane slaughter keeps growing. The Humane Society of the United States issued a letter and called on Senator Barbara Boxer to end the “futile, destructive, and inhumane” extermination program.

California State Senator Carole Migden, U.S. Representative Lynn Woolsey, and California Assembly member Leno all support placing a moratorium on the killings until a better solution can be found. Elected officials are responding to the growing number of local residents, including many ranchers and hunters, who are strongly opposed to the inhumane killing. In addition, the Marin Humane Society, In Defense of Animals, and Wildcare, object to the specious “science” and inadequate consideration of alternatives as part of the National Park Service’s environmental impact statement.

“The Humane Society of the United States has become very concerned with the Park Service’s program apparently designed to exterminate non-native deer at Point Reyes National Seashore,” writes John Grandy, Senior Vice President, Wildlife and Habitat Program, HSUS. “We have contacted Senator Boxer’s office … to expand on these concerns and offer humane non-lethal alternatives for reducing vegetation changes caused by those species to acceptable levels, where necessary.”

You can find out more details on this at:


What can you do about it? Share this information with friends and ask them to check out the above Web sites. There has to be a better more humane way of resolving this problem than just slaughtering these animals. Thanks for caring! /Gary

Posted on Monday, January 28th, 2008
Under: Animal Politics, deer | No Comments »

Bush administration wolf-killing plan

A new federal rule would allow state game agencies to kill endangered gray wolves that prey on wildlife in the Northern Rockies.

Excuse me, but isn’t that what wolves and other predators do naturally? They prey on other wildlife to survive. It’s what happens in … natural … ecosystems.

An estimated 1,545 wolves in Idaho, Wyoming and Montana are scheduled to come off the endangered species list in coming weeks, which would allow public hunting of the predators for the first time in decades.

The rule released Thursday (Jan. 24) is a separate action that would give the three states more latitude to kill wolves even if their removal from the endangered list is delayed. (In other words, to violate the Endangered Species Act!) The rule would empower state wildlife agents to kill packs of wolves if they can prove the animals are having a “major impact” on big game herds such as elk, deer or moose.

Ah, now I understand. These states feel the wolves are competing with human hunters that spend a lot of money in the states when they come to shoot and kill elk, deer and moose. Too bad the wolves don’t have any money to spend.

The rule also would allow hunting guides and others (???) to kill wolves caught harassing dogs or stock animals on public land. Previously, only cattle or sheep ranchers whose animals were being harassed could legally shoot the predators.

Critics contend officials in Wyoming and Idaho — spurred on by anti-wolf livestock interests — are gearing up to kill hundreds of the animals. Those critics say that could knock down the animal’s population in the region by more than half, undermining a decade-long restoration effort that has cost taxpayers (that’s you and me, folks) more than $24 million.

“There’s just no biological justification for killing that many wolves,” said Suzanne Stone with Defenders of Wildlife. “It’s politically driven.”

As my friend and wild canid expert Camilla Fox says in this note:
Gary: Wolves are getting hit across the U.S. In addition to this insanity happening in the Northern Rockies, Wisconsin just proposed a wolf hunting season (where there are fewer than 400 individuals) and Arkansas is seeking a state sponsored denning program (where wolf pups are killed in their dens) (do they still pour gasoline in the dens and burn the cubs to death like the old days? /Gary) and less than 50 Mexican wolves remain in New Mexico and Arizona after the feds have killed off dozens because of depredation.
And how many millions were spent to “recover” these wolves?! And so the cycle is repeated …
Camilla, Larkspur

You can read more and find out what you can do about it … if you care … at:

Thanks for caring! /Gary

Posted on Friday, January 25th, 2008
Under: Endangered species, Wolves | No Comments »

People who eat … raccoons

I was reading a Chicago Tribune story by Megan Twohey the other day slugged, “Raccoon meat delights the down-home faithful, amuses the haute curious.”

That ought to grab your attention. It sure did mine!

It’s all about hunting and trapping raccoons in Illinois, and how the “bandit-masked critter is turning up in kitchens across the state.” It includes recipes.

I know people from the Mid-West tend to look down on us Californians because we like to nibble on sushi, but this is ridiculous.

You can read the whole article by clicking on the link below. WARNING: There’s a video and photos on the page with the story and they’re pretty horrible. Don’t watch the video if you’re bothered by this kind of stuff!

The story and video:,0,7051357.story

Your thoughts? /Gary

Posted on Thursday, January 24th, 2008
Under: Uncategorized | No Comments »

Will your pet(s) be cared for when you die?

SB 685, the Pet Trust Bill, will make pet trusts valid and enforceable in California

San Francisco SPCA president Jan McHugh-Smith hails the state Senate Judiciary Committee’s unanimous passage of SB 685, The Pet Trust Bill, on Jan. 15.

“The eventual passage of this bill will bring California into line with the majority of other states which already have enforceable pet trust laws,” McHugh-Smith noted. “It will also bring great peace of mind to pet guardians who wish to ensure continuing care for their companion animals should they predecease them.”

The Pet Trust Bill is sponsored by the SF/SPCA and carried by Senator Leland Yee (D-San Francisco/San Mateo). The bill is also supported by the Humane Society of the United States, WildCare, The Marin Humane Society, the San Francisco Dog Owners Group (SFDOG), and other advocacy groups.

A legal pet trust protects companion animals and ensures that they receive the continuing care for which their owner/guardians planned. Currently, although California has recognized pet trusts for many years, these are only “honorary” trusts with no enforcement capability. SB 685 will make pet trust law consistent with other trust law by requiring trustees to carry out trust instructions regarding pets, and by incorporating oversight to guarantee performance.

SB 685 must now be heard and passed by the State Senate by Feb. 25. It will next be heard in the Assembly Judiciary Committee before moving into the Assembly for passage. The bill will then go to the Governor for consideration to be signed into law.

About time! /Gary

Posted on Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008
Under: Animal Laws, Animal protection legislation, pet trusts, Pets | No Comments »

Will fencing our U.S. borders affect migrating wildlife?

Scroll down to read “Cloned meat and dairy products — safe or not safe to eat?”
Hi Gary:
I was wondering what your thoughts (and the thoughts of bloggers on your site) were about the fencing of our borders?

It seems that a continuous fence along the border will keep migrating terrestrial animals from moving between the two countries. The smaller jaguar population on the Mexican side of the fence will certainly suffer genetically as the larger gene pool from the North is cut off.
Bill Feil, Ph.D. in cyberspace

Hi Bill:
My thoughts are that any fence we build along the Mexican (or Canadian) border to keep humans out will have just as big an impact, or even bigger, on the wildlife that normally migrates back and forth across the same area(s).

And it just won’t be the large rare animals, like jaguars, that will be impacted by these stupid walls. The lives of the tiniest lizards and rodents will be also have their smaller ranges altered. Even songbirds that fly close to the ground — or game birds like quail and pheasants, or roadrunners that spend most of the time running around on the ground — will have their natural ranges modified.

The potential problems lurking behind the construction of border fences seems to be further complicated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS). They have been accused by some of staying away from developing recovery plans for wild creatures that may be affected by these fences. Some cynics say this is because the FWS doesn’t want to get in the way of the Department of Homeland Security’s fence building.

This is from a Jan. 18 Associated Press story by H. Josef Hebert:
If the U.S. border region were designated as a critical recovery area for the jaguar, then it would constrain the Homeland Security Department in building the fence, said Kieran Suckling, policy director of the Center for Biological Diversity. “That’s the central issue here,” Suckling said.

What do you think?

You can read more about this at:


Posted on Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008
Under: border fences, Wildlife | 3 Comments »

Cloned meat and dairy products — safe or not safe to eat?

Below are excerpts from two press releases I received on Jan. 15 containing pro and con arguments on the subject of cloned milk and meat.
Please read them and then let me know your own personal thoughts about the subject.

Are cloned meat and milk safe to eat? Or are they not safe for human consumption? Why?

The Competitive Enterprise Institute applauds the Food and Drug Administration’s verdict on the safety of food products made from cloned animals. The agency’s long-awaited final risk assessment concluded that milk and meat from cloned animals and their offspring is as safe as foods from animals that have been conventionally bred.

The FDA panel reviewed hundreds of scientific and medical studies, producing an exhaustive 968-page report that found no health or safety risks unique to the cloning process. …

“Since Dolly the sheep became the first successfully cloned animal in 1996, thousands of other healthy sheep, cattle and pigs have been born, but critics still claim the process will create monstrous new hybrids.” said Gregory Conko, Director of Food Safety Policy at CEI. “The scary predictions of anti-technology activists have been shown to be nothing more than science fiction.”

In response to ethical questions regarding the technology, Conko notes that breeders can produce better and safer food by cloning rare animals that produce leaner meat, for example, or that are especially resistant to common livestock diseases.

“The ability to drastically reduce illness among animals and to improve consumer safety arguably makes cloning more, not less humane than traditional breeding,” concluded Conko.

Competitive Enterprise Institute:
CEI is a non-profit, non-partisan public policy group dedicated to the principles of free enterprise and limited government. For more information about CEI, see

Today, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) lifted a ban on selling meat and dairy products coming from cloned animals.

Tell grocers you aren’t buying it! Tell them you’ll stop shopping at stores that can’t promise not to sell such products.

The FDA has buckled to big biotech and agro-business despite more than 150,000 public comments opposing the lifting of the ban, and amendments to the federal Farm Bill and Omnibus Appropriations Bill calling for more research before lifting the ban.

Genetically speaking, you meat eaters could eat burgers from the same cow for years.

Don’t eat meat? We still think this issue will interest you, given the risks we take by introducing cloned animals into our food system and ecosystem. … there are no labeling requirements either …

The FDA claims that cloned animals and their offspring are safer for us to eat, yet studies used by the FDA are incomplete.

Cloned animals have a much higher rate of genetic abnormalities than sexually reproduced animals. Most cloned animals die immediately after birth because the intricacies of the cloning process are still not well understood. Dolly, the first cloned sheep, died only six years after her birth of premature arthritis and lung disease.

Friends of the Earth:
Founded in San Francisco in 1969 by David Brower, Friends of the Earth is at the forefront of high-profile efforts to create a more healthy, just world. Mission: to defend the environment and champion a healthy and just world. More about Friends of the Earth at

So what do you think? Thumbs UP or thumbs DOWN on cloned products?

Click on leave a comment” below and adding your thoughts. Thanks. /gary

Posted on Monday, January 21st, 2008
Under: Cloned animals | 5 Comments »

Victim admits yelling and waving at tiger but zoo still at fault

According to the Associated Press, one of the young men attacked by the tiger at the San Francisco Zoo supposedly told another victim’s father that they were standing atop a railing and yelling and waving at the tiger shortly before the Christmas Day attack.

If that is true, then the two brothers and their friend were completely out of line and may actually have made the tiger angry enough to try and get out of its cage. If authorities can prove that they taunted the tiger and this violates any laws, then they should be prosecuted for same.

However, we must not forget the S.F. Zoo’s own responsibilities in this matter.

Dangerous zoo animals — any zoo animals — should not be able to get out of their cages, regardless of any yelling or taunting.

If the tiger had been properly caged … it would not have been able to escape its enclosure and kill one young man and injure two others.

Posted on Friday, January 18th, 2008
Under: tiger attack, Zoos | No Comments »