“All I Want for Christmas is a Puppy”: When Dog Shopping, the Devil is in the Details

Coral Strother

As the Holiday Season sets into full swing, and people begin to shop for the perfect gift for their loved ones, no doubt “puppy” will be on the top of many lists.  But before rushing out to the nearest pet store to find that perfect pooch, it is best to be aware of who you are really buying from.  An investigation launched by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) published on November 10, 2011 reported that more than 100 New York pet stores they investigated, including several upscale ones, bought their puppies from puppy mills, despite claims that they only sell dogs that come from private and reputable breeders.

The investigation by the HSUS consisted of two parts.  First, a HSUS investigator along with animal rights activist/ABC’s “The Bachelor” Lorenzo Borghese went undercover with hidden cameras to 11 New York pet stores posing as customers and asked the store staff questions about the stores’ breeder sources.  All 11 stores made either explicit or implicit and misleading statements that they did not get their puppies from puppy mills, but instead got their dogs from small private breeders.  The second stage of the HSUS investigation involved reviewing the shipping documents of over 100 New York pet stores (including the 11 visited undercover).  The results of the review concluded more than 100 New York pet stores (including the 11 interviewed) did in fact obtain their puppies from puppy mills.  All 11 of the interviewed stores as well as many of the 100 investigated stores used puppy mills that had numerous Animal Welfare Act violations, including citations for filthy conditions, lack of adequate space, exposure to extreme weather conditions, malnourished animals, and a neglect of proper veterinary care.  Most notably, several pet stores used facilities owned by Brandi Cheney (who has over 500 pages in of USDA inspection and enforcement reports linked to her) and facilities owned by Kathy Jo Bauck/Kathy Cole (convicted animal abuser who had her USDA license revoked).  Additionally, HSUS checked out and filmed several of the “small private breeding facilities” that some of the 11 pet stores investigated cited to use, only to find these facilities housed hundred of dogs in small cages. Continue reading

Is the End Near for Chimpanzee Research?

Gillian Lyons

With the holiday approaching, at least one species has (a little) something to be cheerful about.  Earlier this week, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a government commissioned report on the status of chimpanzee research in the United States.  The report concluded that “recent advances in alternate research tools have rendered chimpanzees largely unnecessary as research subjects.”   Dr. Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, announced on December 15 that NIH would be accepting the recommendations contained within the report, and until further notice will not be accepting any applications involving chimpanzee research.

It should be noted, however, that NIH is NOT considering an outright ban on all chimpanzee research- it is simply considering a significant decrease in funding for such research, via the implementation of strict standards that will limit chimpanzee experiments to those that are absolutely necessary.  While the report and NIH agree that most chimpanzee research is currently unnecessary, there is no saying whether the use of chimpanzees will become more “necessary” in the future.  The IOM report itself states that while chimpanzee research is largely unnecessary as things currently stand, that “it is impossible to predict whether research on emerging or new diseases may necessitate chimpanzees in the future.” Continue reading

Thoughts on the ethics of pet ownership

Eric Chiamulera

On October 18, 2011, Terry Thompson released 56 exotic pets from a private zoo he owned and maintained on his 73 acre farm in Zanesville, Ohio. This group of released animals contained such species as lions, tigers, wolves, bears, and mountain lions. Because of the perceived threat to the public, authorities slaughtered over 50 of these unfortunate animals. As the story unfolded, it became apparent that Thompson had been ill equipped to properly care for these animals, and that he had been convicted of animal cruelty in 2005 based on his treatment of these exotic pets. One result of this tragedy is that it has increased public awareness of the existence of similar zoos around the country. It has also brought to light the fact that many exotic pet owners do not have the knowledge or experience to properly care for these animals.  Continue reading

Israel Bans Declawing

Adonia David

 Israel has banned the practice of cat declawing, joining the ranks of a number of other counties that have found it inhumane enough to prohibit.  This week, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed a law prohibiting declawing (with a few medical exceptions).  Violators can face up to a year in prison as well as a fine.  This is good news for Israeli cats.  Unfortunately for American cats, the situation is not quite as bright. In the United States, declawing cats is a common practice among pet-owners, with one poll showing 55% of cat owners approve of the practice.   Unfortunately many people do not understand that declawing a cat is not simply the same as clipping its claws.  Declawing is really amputation, and similar to actually removing the last segment of a human’s finger or toe.  While some pet owners insist that their cats act the same as they did before declawing and they do not know the difference, the hidden truth is that declawing affects the way a cat walks and balances.  The difference in the way thei r feet grip the ground can lead to back pain.  Other complications can include hemorrhages, regrowth of the claw inside the foot, lameness, and abscesses.  For more information on the physical aspects of declawing, see here.    Continue reading

Feral cats with Rabies

Eric Chiamulera
On December 1, 2011, the Westchester County Department of Health issued a rabies alert to residents of New Rochelle, N.Y., who may have come into contact with a rabid cat. The cat, a red tabby, had been observed acting aggressively towards other animals and people. There are reports that the red tabby cat may have come into contact with a colony of feral cats in New Rochelle. Similarly, Westchester health officials had to issue a rabies warning to Ossining residents when a rabid calico kitten, who had been in contact with other feral cats, had attacked an adult cat before being captured. This problem of feral cats being exposed to rabies is occurring in other parts of the country as well. For instance on November 23, 2011, city officials in Fort Worth, Texas warned residents that a woman was attacked by a rabid feral cat. Continue reading

A Day at the Zoo

Jessica Witmer

Recently I went to the Bronx Zoo where I was able to see first hand, all different types of wild animals, ranging from grizzly bears to polar bears.  Aside from visiting a zoo I will most likely never experience seeing these wild animals first hand.  However, seeing these animals outside of their natural habitat made me think about whether it is ethical to confine a wild animal to a synthetic version of its natural habitat.  In the past zoos were seen as a source of entertainment and their missions were to make profits.  In contrast, today zoos purport that their role has transformed into one of promoting conservation by providing educational and scientific mechanisms.  If a zoos role is what it claims to be, they can become a crucial source in saving species from the brink of extinction.  With increasing threats to wildlife in their natural habitats, it is becoming more important to find ways to sustain populations.  Continue reading

Civil Penalties Assessed Against Feld Entertainment (Ringling Bros.)

Sarah Markham

A strong message of against animal cruelty has been delivered to the public, especially those who exhibit animals for profit, with the assessment of civil penalties against the Ringling Brothers.   On November 28, the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Field Entertainment, Inc., paid $270,000 in fines for violations of Animal Welfare Act pursuant to an agreement that have been reached with USDA.

The Animal Welfare Act requires that minimum standards of care be provided for animals exhibited to the public.  PETA repeatedly urged the USDA to take action against Ringling Brothers for numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act.  In 2009, PETA led an undercover investigation to reveal “the saddest show on earth,” which included the exhibited animals being struck with bull hooks.  In August of this year, an elephant ‘stumbled’ according to Ringling Brothers, but an eyewitness believed the elephant collapsed when the handlers were moving her. Continue reading