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Archive for April, 2010|Monthly archive page

Introducing Stamps to the Rescue and Letters For Pets!

In Animal News on April 30, 2010 at 4:31 pm

This morning, Tails founder Janice Brown boarded a 5 a.m. flight to Los Angeles for today’s unveiling of the new USPS stamp campaign, Stamps to the Rescue: Adopt a Shelter Pet commemorative postage stamps.

“This campaign continues the Postal Service’s 50+ year tradition of raising awareness of serious social issues with special commemorative stamps,” according to the Stamps to the Rescue website. Each stamp features one of ten former shelter animals now living in a forever home.

Following the 2:45 p.m. dedication, Janice will be at the Academy of TV Arts & Sciences the launch of the Tails‘ campaign Letters for Pets.

Because we believe so strongly in adoption and rescue and because we were inspired by the USPS campaign, Tails has started a letter writing initiative. We’re asking that President Obama declare April 30th National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day by sending 1 million letters to the Obamas (including Bo). You can help by downloading one of our letter templates and mailing it to the White House–using one of the new stamps, of course. Visit Letters for Pets for more information, download your letter, stamp it, and take a photo of yourself mailing it. For every photograph that you upload to our Facebook page, Halo and Ellen DeGeneres will donate five meals to a shelter animal in need.

“This is an opportunity to shed light on the animals with something as easy as sending a letter, which many of us do everyday,” Janice said.

After today’s unveiling, Janice will catch a late-night flight to be back in Chicago for tomorrow morning’s Bark in the Park at Montrose Harbor. The 5K walk will raise awareness and funds for the Anti-Cruelty Society. If you’re in town, stop by our table and say hi! —Katie Scarlett Brandt


Burned Again, Like So Many Times Before: Setting the prairie aflame to protect native species

In Animal News on April 30, 2010 at 3:50 pm

Students at Chicago’s Northeastern Illinois University had quite a surprise as they rushed to class last Thursday. Many quickly scrambled for their cell phones to snap pictures of smoke billowing and flames shooting up from the prairie grass that runs along sidewalks on campus.

“What is this?” I heard one student say, shielding his eyes from the heat.

It was the periodic burn of the prairie areas at NEIU, prescribed by the Department of Geography & Environmental Studies as well as the Department of Biology.

“These burns help the native species that may be hindered by overgrowth of plants that really shouldn’t be here,” said Department Chairman Dr. Erick Howenstine. The burns kill off the invasive species of plants that outgrow and cover up the natural vegetation found in this part of the state.

As invasive plants were introduced with the settlement of Europeans in the early 19th century, they overtook the native plants. Consequently, the insects and animals that make homes in these prairies and rely on native plants for sustenance endured challenges as well. The wildlife that roamed these parts included beavers, foxes, deer, and diverse species of birds. Many of these animals still exist in the region, but they are not nearly as prevalent as they were prior to development.

Professors led student volunteers in the burn, and I was eager to participate having heard about it being done in the past. I walked away with the know-how of operating a drift torch, as well as a reddened, slightly charred face.

NEIU Biology Instructor Dr. Steven Frankel said, “Had you been here before the bulldozers and buildings, you would see open wetlands and prairie savannas, abundant with White Oak trees and other native species.” Now, like the rest of the Chicago metropolitan area, development has destroyed the intricacy of many similar habitats. We go to school here and we know that every bit counts in today’s urbanized world.

The team of volunteers grabbed their council rakes and started clearing a barrier to keep the fire contained. Not a typical day on the campus of Northeastern Illinois University, but yet again, an educational one. —Nicholas Brandt

Nicholas Brandt is an Environmental Studies major at Northeastern Illinois University. He will travel to Ecuador later this spring to monitor shark populations off the coast of Puerto Lopez.

Pet Pic of the Day

In Pet Pic of the Day on April 28, 2010 at 6:48 pm

“zzzzzzz” by kitty cat bandit

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

Happy International Day of the Dog!

In Animal News on April 26, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Treat your babies extra well today.

(Photo of Carmelo by Associate Editor Katie Scarlett Brandt)

MOMMY TAILS: The Superworm Saga

In Animal News on April 26, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Shortly after we added a box turtle to our family this past January, my husband came home from the pet store with a triumphant smile on his face. He had discovered the protein-filled feeding marvel known as . . . SUPERWORMS! Unlike mealworms and waxworms, these little critters aren’t supposed to morph into beetles, which our dear Ramesses (yes, my five-year-old named him and our anole, Moses, after the lead characters from The Ten Commandments) would not be able to digest.

So, flash forward to a playdate with three little girls in my house the first week of March. Things seemed largely under control, so I called my son’s neurologist to ask a few questions before an upcoming trip. No sooner had I gotten his nurse on the phone, however, when I heard girlish screaming echoing from my daughter’s room. Phone in hand, I sprinted up the stairs and saw half a dozen superworms tunneling through the carpet at warp speed. (For the record, they’re not exactly pokey after making a jail break.) The following is a brief synopsis of the dialogue that ensued:

Me: Oh, my God! There are worms everywhere! (Keep in mind that this is a frigid, blustery March morning, so the thought of worms crawling to and fro might seem a tad insane to an outsider like, oh, well for example’s sake, the neurologist’s nurse.)

Nurse: What?!

Me: There are worms! (To Maria and her comrades) How did this happen?

Nurse: Is everything okay?

Me: Yes–it’s just that . . . it’s not important. I’ll call you back. Sorry. (Click)

After questioning the young ladies who I assumed were culprits behind the great escape, I caught what I hoped were all of the superworms. Maria swore that she hadn’t lifted the lid to the plastic container that they call home, but I scoffed at her declarations of innocence. Don’t you just love when you end up having to eat your words in front of your kids?

A few days later, my husband called me into Maria’s room to show me that the turtle’s equivalent of prime rib had been chewing through their clearly less-than-sturdy habitat. God knows I had been showering the worms with enough lettuce for snack food, but apparently they had to try their jaws out on plastic. Slightly red-faced, I apologized to my daughter for having doubted her, moved the creepy-crawlies into a more reliable plastic bug box, and hoped that was the end of the superworm saga. Unfortunately, I was proven wrong yet again . . . .

Over the past few weeks, I have discovered (thanks to Maria’s squealing) that I didn’t capture all of the lucky few who nibbled their way to liberty. In fact, three had enjoyed enough time on the run that they did what the pet store had promised they wouldn’t do: They morphed into big, black beetles. Now, I don’t like killing any living thing. Heck, I even let spiders and thousand-leggers run loose in the basement because I run with the philosophy that they’re munching on all the other unwanted insects who make their way in from the crawlspace.

Unfortunately, however, I was compelled (upon locating the first transformer) to do an extremely thorough vacuuming job. My excuse for the attempted superworm slaughter? I had visions of a certain five-year-old leaping into my bed at night, completely hysterical that something had inched its way up her pajamas. My success rate with the Hoover? All I can say is that Saint Francis must have been shining his light on the insect world that day because I found no victims to suck up with the hose. And I will give myself snaps for relocating our trio of beetles to the bug box.

Lessons learned from this story? A). Superworms CAN and DO morph; B). Trust your daughter’s word over the automatic assumption that any insect that doesn’t sting or bite is inherently innocent; and C). Always have a bug box handy because you never know what you’ll find burrowing through the carpet. Oh, and don’t forget to throw some lettuce in there occasionally. The bug box, that is–not the carpet.

–Katie Marsico has written for Tails since 1999. In addition to contributing feature stories to the magazine, she now will write a weekly blog post for Tattle Tails, giving us a glimpse into her often funny and always chaotic life as mother, pet guardian, and writer.

Pet Pic of the Day

In Animal News on April 21, 2010 at 7:01 pm

“buster2” by cbstenberg

and “buster4” by cbstenberg

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

Supreme Court upholds animal cruelty media

In Animal News on April 21, 2010 at 6:34 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court decided on Monday, April 19 to invalidate a federal law prohibiting the sale of videos, photographs, or other media depicting acts of animal cruelty.

The now-defunct law, the Depiction of Animal Cruelty Act, was created to prevent the commercial sale of such “entertainment” videos from stimulating a market for depictions of animal abuse and thereby encouraging acts of animal cruelty.

While the Supreme Court found that depictions of animals were protected forms of free speech under the First Amendment, the American Human Association disagrees. American Humane’s interim president and CEO, George C. Casey stated: “Deliberately killing animals for entertainment has nothing to do with freedom of speech.  Americans are within their right to keep blatant animal torture and killing out of the marketplace, and the Supreme Court should have made that the priority over the supposed protections of those who take sick pleasure in this material.”

The American Humane Association has urged the Supreme Court to reconsider the ruling, arguing that it will only be used to shield criminals from punishment for their crimes against animals. You can learn more about the Supreme Court ruling and the human cost of animal abuse at American Humane’s website at AmericanHumane.org. –Amanda Hughes

Proposed Massachusetts bill would protect pets from domestic abuse

In Animal News, Help the Animals on April 20, 2010 at 9:54 pm

House Bill 1499 would add pets to restraining orders in order to protect them from becoming victims of domestic violence. Representative Peter Koutoujian (D) filed the bill on January 13, 2009. The deadline for this bill is May 7, 2010.  Massachusetts is following 11 other states–including Illinois, New York, and Colorado–who already have similar laws in place.

Wow, House Bill 1499 IS important

Wow, House Bill 1499 IS important

Animal and domestic violence advocates say this bill would protect animals and families in many capacities. It would also protect those caring for pets whose guardians are in a safe haven.

Often times a victim will not leave an abusive home because he or she refuses to leave the pets behind. And in some domestic disputes, pets are used to lure victims back into the home. Perpetrators will threaten to harm or kill the animal if the victims don’t return. A study by the MSPCA and Northwestern University revealed that “up to 48 percent of victims either will not leave or will return to a violent relationship because they fear for a pet’s safety.”

HB 1499 would extend protection to family pets as they often times become collateral damage in domestic abuse situations. “Abusers often take advantage of women’s and children’s attachments to pets by threatening to harm or kill the family pet to ensure the woman will not leave or that the child will not report the abuse,” according to an article on the subject by animal welfare activists Phil Arkow and Tracy Coppola.

Thomas Flanagan, an officer with the Animal Rescue League of Boston, told the Boston Herald, “[HB 1499] will make it a lot simpler to make a complete separation between the batterer and the victim. You’re not going to have that bartering chip where they can lure them back and have a horrible retaliation.”

Please help pass House bill 1499 by contacting the judiciary committee and voicing your support by clicking here. –Sarah Hyde

‘Meals’ act will help animals as well

In Animal News on April 20, 2010 at 7:35 pm

House Resolution 4870—better known as the Healthy School Meals Act—is garnering major support from celebrities and organizations across the country. That support includes actress Scarlett Johannson, Olympic medalist Amanda Beard, and animal rights organizations such as the Humane Society and Farm Sanctuary.

Farm Sanctuary, the leading farm animal protection organization, wants to get even more people on board. The organization is making a nationwide plea on Wed., April 21, urging all citizens to participate by calling their legislators and representatives and telling them to support this bill.

The $4 million initiative will gradually implement meal choices consisting of plant-based food and non-dairy beverage options over the next two years for federally subsidized school lunches.

Aside from the obvious positive effects the initiative will have on the children who rely on these lunches as well as those searching for a vegetarian option, the bill’s passage would also greatly reduce the consumption of meat products from factory farm animals. This reduction will not only help the animals’ well-being, but the overall health of the environment. Potentially, methane emissions would decrease along with overgrazing.

Most schools use the grade of meat currently offered due to its low cost, but HR 4870 offers financial incentives as well as tax breaks to those schools who implement the program.

The Healthy School Meals Act tries to cover all bases by meeting needs on all sides: from the health conscious to the environmentally aware to those with financial concerns.

For more information about the National Call-In Day in support of the Healthy School Meals Act, or to learn how to contact you legislator, visit FarmSanctuary.org. —Brendan Quealy

Pet Pic of the Day

In Animal News on April 20, 2010 at 6:21 pm

“Chloe” by SarahInArizona

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