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Archive for October, 2008|Monthly archive page

Turkey Paradise

In Animal News, Help the Animals, Just for Fun on October 30, 2008 at 5:20 pm

As a vegetarian of eight years, Thanksgiving is the day I celebrate the deliciousness of the yam (no marshmallows, please), rather than the gobbler. So, naturally, I am proud of my country for honoring an annual tradition in which the President “pardons” a turkey. Each year, one lucky bird is appointed National Thanksgiving Turkey, appearing at the White House and getting an official pardon from the president. But, did you ever wonder where the pardoned turkey goes post-pardoning? I shuddered to think that Mr. or Ms. Turkey ended up back on some mass-producing turkey farm or lonely somewhere in a dank old barn. These turkeys deserved the best; Ben Franklin, after all, wanted them to be the national bird.

After reading up on my Turkey Pardoning, I was pleased to find out that since 2005 these lucky gobblers have been living out the rest of their days in the happiest place on Earth. Seriously. They go to Disneyland and Disney World! It is in these childhood paradises that the turkeys are put on special diets to shed the extra pounds they carried in the event that they would be slaughtered so that they can now flap about happily and healthily. They are also trained in order to keep them physically and mentally active.

The first turkeys to go Disney-style were Marshmallow and Yam. I’m not too fond of the names—might as well call them Lunch and Dinner. At least they were pardoned. Last year’s turkeys were May and Flower (by popular vote). This year’s turkeys will go to Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Ranch, visible to anyone who wishes to see them.

So this Thanksgiving, take a moment to think about those great American amusement parks…and the turkeys that live there. —Jill Brodsky


When in Peru

In Animal News, Just for Fun on October 28, 2008 at 7:29 pm

Animal rights activists—and kitty lovers everywhere—are expressing their outrage at the Gastronomical Festival of the Cat, also known as the Massacre of the Moggies, in the town of Canete, Peru, south of Lima. Held in honor of Saint Ifigenia, a Christian saint, the festival entails the consumption of hundreds of cats bred exclusively for the occasion.

To put this into some perspective, in some sectors of Peruvian culture, cat meat is thought to cure and prevent bronchial disease as well as act as an aphrodisiac. Go figure. Far be it from me to promote cultural relativism carte blanche, but I admit to having my doubts whether there wouldn’t be a market for selling first-born children in this country if it was thought to enhance our love lives. Everyone across this great big world of ours, absolutely irrespective of country or culture, wants to be healthy, and yes, good in bed. What gets you there is where the difference lies—not to mention what kind of animal rests on your plate versus on your lap.

Which brings me to my own recent personal experience. I visited Peru a little more than a month ago and noticed, among other things, a distinct dissonance with American culture in relation to pets. Yes, Peruvians have dogs as pets; you see them everywhere, mostly because they’re running around willy nilly, unleashed, free as birds, through narrow winding streets and, yes, frenetic traffic as well. There’s an element of trust (and perhaps carelessness) at work here that I haven’t seen in the U.S., trust in the dog to come home when he’s had enough fun, and trust in the wider community to look after him. At the same time as Sparky is prowling the streets quite independently, there’s not a llama or alpaca (and there are many) in sight without a closely guarded leash more than 5 inches from a protective human. From what I could see, the llama and alpaca are at the very top of the pet hierarchy. And yet, like guinea pigs, who also commonly serve as pets, they double as dinner for special occasions and appear on most restaurant menus.

Peruvians, it seems to me, are more comfortable than we are with the duality of animals’ roles in society as both pets and lunchmeat. We’re more conflicted, though perhaps understandably so. It’s Fifi to come home to, but nameless, pristinely packaged crab or cow for dinner.

However culturally sensitive I strive to be, I am an American, and consequently do believe in debate. So I think our discomfort with eating cats is probably healthy and that the debate it sparks is equally so. Let’s just not assume that Peruvians don’t love their animals as much as we do. I saw firsthand that there’s more than enough love, even while there’s less of almost everything else than I have the privilege—and responsibility—of seeing here.

Movie star a rescue?

In Just for Fun on October 28, 2008 at 5:44 pm
Was Papi rescued from a shelter?

Was Papi rescued from a shelter?

I am a bad Chihuahua parent and fan—I have not yet seen Beverly Hills Chihuahua. I squealed with the 5 year olds when I saw the trailer for it before watching Wall-E, but I haven’t had a chance to make it out to the theatre again. (I blame being busy and not having any fellow Chihuahua-loving friends who want to see a G-rated movie with me).


While waiting in the check out lane yesterday I noticed the little dogs were once again gracing the cover of magazines. People magazine had a story about the star of the movie, but I couldn’t seem to find it on their website. Instead, I came across this article.

That National Enquirer is not the most credible source, but even if the story is made up, it’s still heartwarming. According to the Enquirer, the star of the movie, Papi (his real name is Rusco), was rescued from a shelter by a Hollywood animal trainer, minutes before he was going to be euthanized.


Even if the story is exaggerated, at least it’s promoting rescue and adoption, more than any other made up tabloid story can say!

And the animal vote goes to …

In Animal News on October 27, 2008 at 7:25 pm

Animals may not get a vote in this election, but a group that represents their interests, the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF), has made its choice. Focused solely on animal-protection policies, without respect to party or other social issues, HSLF has endorsed the Obama-Biden ticket. HSLF says that the choice is clear for the humane-minded voter. This endorsement marks the first time HSLF has endorsed a presidential candidate, although the organization has endorsed hundreds of congressional candidates, both Republicans and Democrats, in the past.

The bipartisan board voted unanimously to endorse Obama, while acknowledging that Senator John McCain has not been altogether remiss in his defense of animals, voting in favor, for instance, of a bill to ban horse slaughter. His choice of Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate, however, has negated what credentials he does have regarding animal protection in the eyes of the organization, which says that her “retrograde policies on animal welfare and conservation have led to an all-out war on Alaska’s wolves and other creatures,” a pronouncement informed by such measures as her decision to file a lawsuit to reverse the Bush Administration’s classifcation of the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Her potential to succeed a President McCain would, HSLF fears, pose the threat of rolling back decades of progress on animal issues.

HSLF has, alternatively, given Democratic vice presidential nominee Joe Biden high marks for leadership on legislation serving the interests of animals. In addition to having supported hundreds of bills protecting animals, Senator Biden has also coauthored, with Senator Barbara Boxer of California, and helped pass a ban of the netting of dolphins by commercial tuna fishermen.

HSLF cites Barack Obama’s record on animal protection as reassuringly consistent to animal lovers. Senator Obama has cosponsored multiple bills in the Illinois and U.S. Senate to combat animal fighting, puppy mills, and horse slaughter, as well as voted to increase funding for the enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, among others.

Obama has also highlighted issues of animal protection on the campaign trail, speaking out against the mistreatment of downed cows, which led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history earlier this year. And after originally stating that he and his wife were planning on purchasing a purebred dog for their daughters following the campaign, he has decided to adopt a shelter dog (thanks to some enthusiastic urging from animal groups such as Best Friends) instead.

HSLF keeps a Humane Score Card, which serves as a snapshot of politicians’ records on animal protection. Out of a possible 100 points, Obama scored a 75, while McCain scored a 25.

The scariest thing of all

In Just for Fun, PUPPIES! on October 24, 2008 at 8:06 pm

One of the great perks of working at Tails is being privy to an obscene amount of cute animal photos. And Halloween is the season for cute overload—which brings me to another watershed moment in my life brought about solely through my tenure at Tails: Cute Overload. The name pretty much says it all. And the unnerving thing about it is that you never can overload; once you start overloading, you can’t get enough. And the bread and butter of all this cuteness, appropriately enough, is nothing less clichéd than cuddly schmuddly pets in Halloween costumes. Tabby kitty in a felt pumpkin, rascally rodent in a pirate hat, Puggle in a sailor suit … you name it, someone with a cute fetish has done it. But the really scary thing is—not the haunting shadow your Schnauzer casts in his ghoulish goblin wear—but the fact that we, humans, the most fickle of all creatures, can seemingly never satisfy this need to partake of an endless orgy of cuteness.

Which brings us to the inherent contradiction of dressing up for Halloween, for people and their four-legged companions alike, and the distinction between costumes and disguises. Disguises, the friend of escape artists and convicts everywhere, are supposed to hide your identity, while costumes highlight a certain aspect of it, one that you find pleasurable to the point of, dare we say, naughtiness. The thrill of being something other than what you normally appear to be is, of course, the thrill of being what you really are in some way but are prevented from expressing in your day-to-day reality.

The theoretical aside, no matter how spooky the costume, it’s only going to accentuate Sparky’s cuteness, which is to say his utter vulnerability in the face of our identity games. Cuddles’ adorable attempts to wriggle out of her mermaid suit also makes the question of who we see ourselves to be a laughably moot point. We’re cute junkies, no doubt about it, and we don’t even try to hide it.

Ratchet is home!

In Animal News on October 24, 2008 at 7:20 pm

With the help of friends and family, word spread quickly that this Iraqi puppy was going to be abandoned due to the Army’s no-pet rule, devastating guardian Sgt. Gwen Beberg. Worldwide outrage in reaction to the situation helped bring Ratchet to where he is now, in Minneapolis where he can be with his human in a safe environment. You can see a video of this happy ending on the Star Tribune website.

-Jill Brodsky

Pet Pic of the Day

In Pet Pic of the Day on October 17, 2008 at 9:24 pm

“Sweet Rai” by flickr user Shamey Jo

Want your pet’s mug to be our pic of the day? Join our flickr photo group and upload your images.

Grapes are No Good!

In Health and Safety on October 15, 2008 at 8:37 pm

Just a friendly reminder from the ASPCA’s website: grapes and their lovely wrinkled relative, the raisin, are highly toxic to dogs. A recent case of puppy-meets-raisin-bread-loaf lead the Sigalls to call the ASPCA’s poison control hotline. They were directed to take the little pooch to the vet clinic quickly where Winnie, the puppy-victim, was forced to vomit and was given fluids. Winnie was very lucky to have such responsive parents. When caught soon enough, a dog that has eaten grapes or raisins can be helped just like Winnie. It’s always safest, however, to keep toxic foods and chemicals away from your pets reach.

This time of year we need to be extra cautious, particularly with several holidays around the corner. Halloween candy and costumes can be dangerous for our pets, as well. Candy in any amount can make a pet sick; especially chocolate which is toxic to dogs. Don’t forget, a wrapper barrier protects candy until it is time to eat it, but Fido and Fifi don’t have opposable thumbs to undo the tinfoil and cellophane, which might end up in their digestive systems instead. Make sure your costume and your pets’ costumes are pet safe. If you are going to dress your pet for Halloween, make sure the costume is comfortable and enjoyable for your pet. More tips for a Happy Halloween can be found here. If you suspect that your pet has eaten something dangerous, call the ASPCA Poison Control Center at (888) 426-4435 and rush him or her to the vet as soon as possible. —Jill Brodsky

Technologically Savvy Giants

In Animal News, Just for Fun on October 14, 2008 at 6:46 pm

They may be able to crush your cell phone in a single footstep, but elephants are now text messaging in Kenya. In an effort to make peace between local farmers and elephants without anyone getting hurt, a new system has been tested on Kimani, an African elephant living in the Ol Pejeta conservancy. A SIM card was placed into a collar, which was then fixed onto Kimani. Any time he stepped too close to the border between the conservancy and surrounding farms, a text message was sent to the ranger on duty who would drive his vehicle to Kimani’s location and frighten him back to the inner conservancy. Kimani, through this process, has significantly cut down on the number of times he wanders off toward the farms. This process is expensive with the amount of equipment and workers needed to follow through, but the locals don’t have to worry about Kimani (and hopefully his buddies, soon) destroying up to six months of family income at a time. —Jill Brodsky

Rooting for Ratchet

In Animal News on October 14, 2008 at 6:38 pm

After being rescued from a pile of burning trash, Ratchet had a few months of happiness as a pet and now faces the idea of being a stray once more. One of his rescuers, Sgt. Gwen Beberg, became attached to the dog during a tour in Iraq before she was transferred to another location. The Army denied her request to bring Ratchet home with her when she returns to Minnesota next month. The SPCA-International, with its Operation Baghdad Pups’ program, is trying to intervene and over 10,000 people have signed a petition on Ratchet’s behalf. The program has already rescued fifty cats and dogs from being left on the streets of Iraq when their American guardians are transferred. A representative is on her way to Baghdad this week. Beberg received confirmation that Ratchet is still alive and safe at her previous location. —Jill Brodsky