The Homeless and Their Pets: Mutual Dependence for Survival

Michelle D. Land

Michael, Wayne, and Gonzo_NYC_101515

Michael, Wayne and Gonzo, New York City. Photo: Michelle D. Land

When Wayne (above right) and his dog, Gonzo, sleep at night, Gonzo is both alarm and shield. “If someone is trying to wake me up, Gonzo doesn’t bark, he just lays across me. Same thing if it is raining or there is something going on that I should know about.”

Throughout most of my twenty-minute conversation with Wayne, Gonzo, a brindle pit bull, lay on his blanket curled up, oblivious to my presence. But there was a palpable feeling of interdependence between the two, as there usually is between the homeless and their companion animals.

To homeless pet guardians, their animals are sources of emotional support: friendship, companionship, unconditional acceptance, reduced loneliness, and love. They are “family” and “friends.” They facilitate contact with those who might not otherwise communicate with a homeless person, thereby reducing the social isolation so common to many homeless. They can be strong motivators, providing a sense of responsibility and purpose. Most important, especially in the case of youth, caring for a pet can help the homeless to develop healthier coping mechanisms, strive to stay out of trouble and take better care of themselves.

The pets can be beneficiaries as well. Wayne proudly showed me Gonzo’s mulepack-style saddlebag designed for dogs. A homeless support program gave it to him. Gonzo likes to carry his own things, Wayne explained, because it gives him a sense of purpose. Many a parent has spoken similarly of a child and her backpack. But Wayne was also noting the contrast between Gonzo’s life on the street and the life of a domiciled dog. Most of us must leave our pets home alone for as long as eight to twelve hours a day. Gonzo is with Wayne at all times and has the benefit of constant interaction, socialization and enrichment.

Homeless pet owners constitute a hidden population.

According to the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), there were roughly 578,000 Continue reading

Settlement Provides Whales Protection from Naval Sonar Operations

Charles T. Jordan

A settlement has been reached that will provide whales and dolphins some peace and quiet in the waters around Hawaii and Southern California. The US Navy, on September 14, agreed to curb its use of sonar in these waters in order to prevent harming whales, dolphins, and other marine mammals.

Studies have shMap 1 Cali own that whales and dolphins use their ears to navigate and survive in their habitat. However, this has gotten more difficult due to the immense quantities of noise in our waters. One particularly devastating source of noise is sonar. Vessels use sonar to detect dangers in the water to prevent collision. Sonar systems send out a high pitched and far ranging sound waves which have been shown to be harmful to marine mammals. The Navy, in its own five year Pacific weapons testing and training plan, estimated that marine mammals would be effected nearly 9.6 million times during high-intensity sonar exercises and weapons detonations. Injuries to the animals include ruptured eardrums and temporary hearing loss which in turn affects the animal’s normal behavior patterns; resulting in stranding, habitat avoidance and abandonment, and even death.Map 2 Hawaii

For many years a number of environmental groups (including the NRDC, Earthjustice, and Greenpeace) have been fighting the Navy and National Marine Fisheries Service (NFMS) in order to protect marine mammals from sonar interferences. Most recently in Conservation Council for Hawaii v. National Marine Fisheries Service, the plaintiffs sued NFMS to enforce the Navy’s five year training and testing plan in Hawaii and Southern California. On September 14 a settlement was reached, in which the Navy agreed to limit the use of sonar in the waters. These limits include; maintaining safe distances from mammals, limited number of sonar and weapon training and testing within certain areas near southern California (map 1), and prohibiting sonar and weapon training and testing in areas near Hawaii (map 2).

While this settlement represents a significant win for these marine mammals, and will certain do a lot to insure their survival, Continue reading

The Vegetarian’s Dilemma: Is it Okay to Drink Milk?

Raghav Patel

For the past four years I have adopted a vegetarian diet, where I don’t eat the meat of any animal, and over the past few dairycowwwyears I have begun to see many other people, from friends and family to also acquaintances that tell me that they have become vegetarians as well. In the United States the rate of people adopting a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle grows every year, showing that there is a increasing awareness to the issues that come with farming livestock. There are several reasons for why people turn to a vegetarian diet, and that may be for the health benefits associated with a vegetarian diet, or for the reasons that raising animals bring on a host of environmental issues, but I’d like to focus on the reason why I and many others choose to be a vegetarian, and that is the ethical issues of eating meat. For the people that abstain from eating meat because they do not want to promote the suffering or killing of any animal.

I understand people go even further than a vegetarian diet and adopt a vegan lifestyle where they won’t use any products derived form animals including leather, but there are those people that believe they are helping animals by simply not eating them. I don’t mean to diminish any good that comes from believing this, but I also want people to understand that the suffering of an animal only continues as it grows older on these livestock farms, either because a cow is pumping out milk for its whole life or because a chicken is popping out eggs continuously, which is just as cruel for its own reasons. Killing the animal is terrible by all means, but the continued exploitation and abuse that an animal suffers while it’s alive is just as bad, if not worse.

dairy-cow-giant-udder-I say it may be worse because dairy cows live their entire lives facing a host of issues, such as being pumped with hormones and antibiotics, living under horrible conditions, and from the psychological abuse they endure; just so we gain something from the cows that we don’t necessarily need. While killing an animal ends its life, it at least stops the immediate pain and suffering that the animal experiences while it is alive and being exploited for what it produces. For a dairy farm to be efficient it needs to continuously produce milk from all of its cows, and like humans, cows only produce milk once they are pregnant. This typically requires that the dairy farmer constantly impregnate the cow (using artificial insemination) so that it can constantly produce milk that it would have given its new born calf, except that the calf shortly after birth is taken away from its mother, and even worse is if the calf is male it is sold and then slaughtered to produce veal. To Continue reading

Harvard Workshop on Animals in Comparative Constitutional Law

David Cassuto

From the email:

Harvard Law School is seeking submissions for a workshop on Animals in Comparative Constitutional Law to be held on Thursday, February 18, 2016.

We invite scholarly submissions on any theme relevant to this topic, including pieces addressing constitutional theory, institutional design, and case studies grounded in the constitutional experiences of particular jurisdictions or regions.  We are also interested in topics that involve issues of religious law, such as the relevance of the halal and kosher debates to constitutional developments regarding animals (e.g. in Europe), and the religious dimensions of the constitutional protections for animals (e.g. in India).

Applicants should submit an abstract (between 500 and 1,000 words) to, along with a C.V., by October 15, 2015.  All submissions must be in English.  Decisions on workshop participation will be communicated to applicants by October 29, 2015.  Continue reading

Are we Comfortably Unaware?

Jeshica Patel

cows-cowspiracyAfter reading an article by Michael Pollan about factory farming and following his journey through the meat eating process, I became extremely curious about how people could read something like that and continue to eat the same way they do. I proceeded to watch a documentary that came out last year called Cowspiracy, which explores issues related to animal agriculture. Something about the way the documentary was made, and the information presented in such an effective manner blew my mind. The documentary features many experts in the field, such as Dr. Richard Oppenlander, who has written about the various issues raised in food depletion in his book Comfortably Unaware.

Cowspiracy dives into issues of animal agriculture being the cause of deforestation, water consumption and pollution without Continue reading

“Free Buddy”: Is it Hypocritical for Animal Advocates to Own Pets?

Tyson-Lord J. Gray

DogAnimal cruelty on factory farms, in zoos, and in amusement parks are all leading concerns by animal advocates and many have gone as far as to compare these industries to the human institution of slavery. Animal advocates who endorse such arguments often fight for the protection of these animals and make large donations to Friends of Animals, Mercy for Animals, and PETA supporting improvements in animal welfare. Yet, rarely does their concern extend to household pets.

However, many of these organizations are not only opposed to the inhumane treatment of animals, but to pet ownership as well. Each year approximately 7.6 million animals enter shelters, and of those 2.7 million are euthanized. Consequently, animal rights activists are vehemently against the breeding of animals for domestication and prefer that individuals adopt animals from pounds and animal shelters as oppose to purchasing them from pet stores or breeders.

Animal advocates who purchase pets from these businesses therefore, are merely cherry picking forms of Continue reading

Cecil and Obie: Owning animals, dead or alive


Photo from Care2 petitions – click image

Kathleen Stachowski     Other Nations

Cecil the lion is dead, long live Cecil. Obie the tiger lives–and dies–in successive purgatories for 45 years running.

Cecil, a unique individual and beloved personality, was slain by a small and hollow man for no reason other than ego. This one “special” lion’s death triggered a tipping point and unleashed worldwide condemnation.

And then there’s Obie, one beloved football mascot who has required a veritable breeding mill to produce the 45 individuals who’ve served as namesake. Make no mistake–it’s the mascot who’s beloved, not the unique tiger cub plugged into the role annually. Old Obies live and die in obscurity as wild captives no longer cubbishly cute, as now-dangerous adults consigned to–well, who knows? Who cares?   Continue reading


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