To Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano, for actively opposing a plan to kill up to four mountain lions in the Sabino Canyon region of Coronado National Forest. The mountain lions were being targeted by the Arizona Department of Game and Fish, which perceived them to be a potential threat to the throngs of tourists visiting the canyon. Friends of Animals members petitioned the governor, after which she publicly condemned the hunt and questioned efforts to remove the cats from what constituted prime mountain lion habitat. Unfortunately, one of the mountain lions was captured by ADF&G, and was relocated to the Southwest Wildlife Rehabilitation in Scottsdale, Arizona.
To the Tulsa World, for supporting an end to cockfighting. In response to the unanimous decision by the Oklahoma Supreme Court to uphold a state ban on cockfighting, the paper stated in an April 1 editorial, “This ugly stigma that has plagued the state for years will soon, barring any bizarre developments such as some misguided action by the Legislature, be a thing of the past.”
To Dan Piraro, creator of the popular “Bizarro” comic strip, for promoting veganism. On his Web site, www.Bizarro.com, he explains “I assumed humans had always eaten meat because it was natural for us to, and that food animals were raised on farms where they were fairly oblivious to their surroundings and only moderately inconvenienced until their swift and humane execution. Nothing could be further from the truth.”
To the city council and the people of Barcelona, for approving a declaration stating “Barcelona is an anti-bullfighting city.” The motion was a response to a petition of 250,000 signatures submitted to the council, which called for a ban on bullfighting. A spokesperson for the Catalan National Party told the Scotsman, “Bullfighting is unsophisticated and brutal. It is not something that should be tolerated in a modern society.”
To the World Wildlife Fund, for promoting several trips to Alaska throughout June, July and August 2004 as part of “WWF Travel,” an ecotourism program. When asked why WWF was sending their members to Alaska, effectively undermining efforts to save wolves in Alaska, the WWF travel desk representative stated that WWF did not consider the matter of wolf-killing a priority.
Kathryn S. Fuller, President
World Wildlife Fund
1250 24th Street
NW Washington, DC 20037-1132
To the Jim Henson Company, for allowing the use of the Muppets in Pizza Hut commercials, with jokes being made about Miss Piggy going “whole hog” for the pizza, which included sausage and pepperoni.
Jim Henson Company
1416 North La Brea Avenue
Hollywood, CA 90028
To Penn and Teller, for the hostile commentary made on their Showtime network series. On the April 1 edition, Penn ranted “I would personally wring the neck of every chimpanzee on earth if it would save the life of just one street corner junkie dying from AIDS.,”
Matthew Blank, CEO
New York, NY 10019
Telephone: 212-708-1600 Fax: 212-708-1217
To CBS News Sunday Morning, for promoting the Iditarod on their March 21 broadcast, saying it was, “chasing the memory of a time when the hearts of men and dogs were the most powerful engines in the land.” The Iditarod is a grueling 1,500 mile race in which dogs are often injured or killed. The CBS report made no mention that two dogs died during the 2004 race.
CBS News Sunday Morning
524 West 57th St.
New York, NY 10019
To the BBC cartoon series “I am not an animal,” which is set in a research laboratory in which nonhuman animals are portrayed as living a “pampered life in a luxurious club class wing of a secret lab.” The animals are removed from the lab by anti-vivisectionists. Referring to the animals, the BBC’s publicity material asked: “Unable to find a decent restaurant in the wild … can these poor, deluded freaks possibly survive?”
Jane Root, BBC2 Controller
Centre Wood Lane, London W12 7RJ
Reports of Tundra Swans received from interested birders are arriving more frequently now-as expected at this time of year. It’s early March when Tundra Swans are arriving by the hundreds on their ancestral pre-migratory staging area along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. Those counts will increase to roughly 10,000 by mid-March as these marvelous and beautiful birds gather overnight on the safety of the river, and then at dawn fly to nearby farm fields to feed.
In recent years, thousands of Tundra Swans also stop at the Middle Creek Wildlife Management Area on the Lancaster-Lebanon counties border near the tiny rural village of Kleinfeltersville. These parts of Pennsylvania are major staging areas for these swans — one of only a few places in North America where people can see and enjoy these birds for brief periods in the wild as they begin their annual northward migrations.
By the end of March, however, Tundra Swans depart Pennsylvania and are well on their way north to their remote Arctic nesting grounds in Alaska and Canada — an arduous journey of several thousand miles.
Regretfully, the safety of Tundra Swans in Pennsylvania may not be assured. Indeed, some birders and wildlife protection advocates experienced in dealing with the Pennsylvania Game Commission believe the Commission at some point in the future plans to announce a limited Tundra Swan hunting season in Pennsylvania — something that has not happened since 1918 — although all Tundra Swans in Pennsylvania currently remain protected. Nevertheless, the Game Commission includes in its Tundra Swan management plan a statement indicating that limited swan hunting is an acceptable part of the agency’s management of this species (which is legally classified as a “game species” with a closed hunting season since 1918). Hence it is possible for the Pennsylvania Game Commission to announce a hunting season for Tundra Swans with minimal legal and regulatory effort although permission also is necessary from the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service (which also supports limited Tundra Swan hunting).
Determined to keep Tundra Swans fully protected as they have been for so many decades, however, several years ago Friends of Animals launched a multi-pronged Campaign for Tundra Swan Appreciation and Protection in Pennsylvania. The most recent aspects of this FoA effort include several additional steps to develop and enhance public interest in Tundra Swan watching and photography.
Here’s what has been done thus far:
- Prepared and distributed carefully written sixth grade swan teaching materials to selected teachers and/or administrators in public and private schools in Lancaster and several adjacent counties — key Tundra Swan watching areas in Pennsylvania.
- Prepared a short 35mm slide show featuring all species of swans known to occur in Pennsylvania as wild birds and made its rental availability known to all teachers receiving the swan teaching unit.
- Contacted the owners or managers of bed-and-breakfasts in prime Tundra Swan viewing areas along the Susquehanna River, and in the vicinity of the Middle Creek Wildlife Management area, in an effort to lay the foundation for Tundra Swan ecotourism in those areas.
- Several bed-and-breakfast owners indicated interest in catering to the needs of swan watchers and photographers.
- Wrote and illustrated a Tundra Swan watching article recently published in Susquehanna Life magazine — a regional lifestyle magazine with a strong circulation in key Tundra Swan watching areas along the Susquehanna River.
- Provided some detailed Tundra Swan watching information to the Pennsylvania Dutch Tourism Agency in Lancaster County, which is adding a birding section to its Web site.
- Generally promoted Tundra Swan watching among members of the birding community in various parts of Pennsylvania.
In addition to the above efforts designed to increase public awareness and appreciation of Tundra Swans in Pennsylvania, and seeking to retain the current protection of these birds, Friends of Animals also previously published another major educational resource — A Field Guide to North American Swans — an inexpensive, color booklet providing basic field identification information for all species of wild swans known to occur in Pennsylvania along with directions to selected locations where Tundra Swans usually can be seen at appropriate times of the year. Copies can be purchased from Friends of Animals (see the FoA Web site or ActionLine for details).
Collectively, these are the efforts that Friends of Animals is using to assure continued Tundra Swan protection in Pennsylvania.
“Growing up, I always heard never to buy a puppy from a pet store, but I never truly understood why. They seemed just as entitled to live in a loving home as any other dog. I would walk by these stores and being drawn in by “that puppy in the window.” I felt as if I had to go in to save them. Now, I understand I am a pet store’s dream; I am their livelihood. They know just how to get me, by appealing to my compassionate side and somehow making me believe that I would be rescuing any animal that I purchased from an uncertain future.”
— Jane Seymour, Hoboken, New Jersey
Virtually all of the puppies sold in storefront pet shops come from puppy mills — or, as they say in the industry, “high-volume kennels.” Thus, the corner pet store has become a place where customers unwittingly support a business that churns out puppies for quick cash.
Puppy mills, loosely defined, are breeders who regularly supply dogs to laboratories, animal brokers or pet shops. Some are outdoor breeding farms that mass-produce puppies for commercial purposes. They might have somewhere in the range of 200 neglected dogs in backyard cages. Friends of Animals followed the story of one puppy born in such a place. Lola was ten weeks old when purchased in a pet store in New Jersey.
The salespeople seemed confident: None of their puppies came from a puppy mill, they said; after all, birth in a puppy mill would mean major health problems. Unlike other pet stores, said the young clerk brightly, our store does regular check-ups on our breeders to make sure our puppies come from healthy, loving homes. Here are her papers: This puppy is “top-notch, AKC-certified, USDA-inspected” and “from a line of pedigree champions.”
Lola’s new owner, Jane, brought Lola home from the Paramus Mall in the midst of a bustling holiday shopping trip. By New Year’s Day, the top-notch baby bulldog would receive over $1000 in veterinary care and seven different pharmaceutical prescriptions. Lola had so many health problems that she received a “not fit for sale” certificate from the vet. In the spring, during her spay appointment, the vet informed Jane’s family that the lesions Lola had since the day she came home were certain evidence of mange. If the mange couldn’t be conquered with a specially-ordered ointment, Lola would face a regimen of dipping in an organophosphate concentrate — a pesticide which can trigger dangerous side effects. When puppies are born in unhealthy conditions they are often infested and weakened with parasites and viruses, and Lola was no exception.
Breeding papers in hand, Jane made plans to see the place of Lola’s birth, in Coffeyville, Kan. Coffeyville is a heartland town, with immense cattle farms and a few McDonald’s and Wal-Mart chains and some churches scattered along the roadsides. And then there is the barking. As Jane pulled into the breeder’s drive, the sound became almost deafening. The sound of 200 dogs.
The homeowners answered the door and sized up Jane suspiciously. Jane quickly introduced herself as another person interested in breeding. Inside the home, several dogs lived as pets; the dogs outside were the working property. One partner showed Jane the cages, explaining what Jane would need to start a breeding farm. The other partner looked at Jane with a nervous, flushed face, said, “Sorry. You are not allowed to view the kennel in the backyard, as you might be carrying dangerous viruses and this would not comply with USDA regulations.” Jane was nearly overcome by the stench from the backyard.
After some negotiation, the pair opened the doors to the backyard kennels, but instructed Jane to stay by the door. What she saw was unforgettable. Hundreds of dogs crammed in small cages, shivering in the sub-freezing cold, clearly forced to stand and sleep in their excrement. Those of the more profitable breeds had some protection from the frigid air — a pile of hay in their cages. Jane knew that bulldogs have difficulty withstanding weather lower than 40 degrees Fahrenheit, yet the breeders pointed to the piles of hay as assurance that the dogs were warm.
When the dogs saw the door open, all were awake, jumping, scratching, fighting to be at the front of the cage, to be the next one to get out. And some of them never will, for they exist only to produce more puppies. When they waver at the task, they will be killed. Lola’s brother Jake will be one such breeding dog.
Jane’s hosts had 30 years of experience in the business, evidently enough to be unmoved by the suffering in their own back yard. Jane showed them a photo of Lola, and described the puppy’s growing list of medical problems. “Lola must have contracted those viruses during transportation,” rebutted the breeder, who admitted that puppies are often deprived of food, water, or ventilation in old, boarded-up buses, cages stacked wall to wall inside, with dogs in transit up to 3 days. The breeder reminisced sadly with her partner about letting the last puppies go. Then she said, “The ones that can’t reproduce ain’t worth a thing.”
Thousands of these breeding operations currently exist in the United States. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has the duty to inspect licensed kennels regularly to ensure that they adhere to minimum standards of the federal Animal Welfare Act, which requires breeders to provide minimum standards of housing, care, and medical treatment. But nothing in the welfare legislation does anything to change people’s minds about the idea that puppies are merchandise — and, like any other form of merchandise, are considered disposable if they don’t match up to the buyer’s expectations.
Karen works in bulldog rescue in Connecticut. Karen meets a lot of young families — people who think bulldogs are cute, but probably over their budgets. “Breed rescue people are the wrong people to call for a puppy,” she says. “Puppies don’t need rescuing.” Karen first became attracted to bulldogs at the age of seven. “My father was in the Navy, and we were stationed at a base where a bulldog was a mascot.” Karen would eventually assist in bulldog rescue, and take over for a retired rescuer.
“One of my dogs, who will be 10 in July, was one of my first rescues. He had been abused by a young couple who shouldn’t have had a dog, and didn’t have a clue about how to raise a puppy. This dog has overcome 80 percent of his issues. He’s loving, sweet, and has gained self-esteem. When I first got him he was afraid of people he didn’t know.”
Rescue groups may not buy dogs, says Karen, referring to “the rescue guidelines.” Karen adds, “Puppy mills have auctions and sell dogs off, and I’d love to be able to get them, but I can’t buy them.”
In 1999, a puppy mill was raided in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Karen and others from rescue groups accompanied officials, entered an unheated barn and found various types of dogs, including 23 frightened bulldogs. A veterinarian who examined the dogs found that all of them had problems: a mother with sutures an inch apart; injuries of the eyes, ears, skin, and knee tendons. The confiscated dogs became property of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and moved into foster care. After the case against the puppy mill was settled, and $10,000 in veterinary bills later, the dogs got homes — except one who died before the case was settled.
In reality, state and federal regulations aren’t enough to protect dogs and puppies in puppy mills, who live in tight, fenced, unsanitary spaces and sometimes starve to death.1
Bad suturing is a common element of neglect, for the mothers are valued only as producers, not products. Because we have intentionally bred bulldogs to have broad heads and broad shoulders, the dogs’ mothers cannot deliver them naturally. Birth is risky to the mothers and the puppies, and some will die under the anaesthesia. Many commercial breeders will deliver puppies through kitchen table-top Caesarians, then place them into the wire mesh crates Jane saw in Kansas. Some puppies will “die on the wire” — meaning they will die of overheating on the wire mesh. They often don’t get vet care at all, let alone air conditioning, explains Karen. Some dogs released from puppy mills do nothing but spin in circles because they were in such confined conditions they did nothing else.2 The pads of some dogs’ feet grow together after standing on wire cages for a long period of time and the toenails of others grew back into their feet.3
Karen dismisses the authority of AKC papers, explaining that the American Kennel Club’s only assurance in the matter is that two purebreds have bred. Many rescue groups are also breeders. Those breeders have outdoor kennels or a heated building, or basement kennels. Then there are backyard breeders — cheap at $1,500 for a bulldog, in contrast to the pet shop prices of $2,400 to over $5,000. But with bulldogs the risks are great: Caesarean sections cost between $2,000 and $4,000; and some births produce only one puppy. Bigger businesses are better prepared to weather the losses. Pet shops deal with the return of dogs in much the same way businesses deal with product returns generally. An unwanted purchase, says Karen, is likely to be killed and written off as a business loss, or sent back to the puppy mill for killing.
Another option is to recycle the unwanted dog into another home, and that is where Karen comes in. Karen acclimates bulldogs by giving them a period of foster care, and keeps a waiting list of approved homes. The application form requires an owned home; adopters experienced with bulldogs are preferred. The reasons people relinquish bulldogs, Karen explains, tend to form a pattern: people often buy bulldogs on impulse. Some do not know how much care the dogs need: cleaning the folds in their faces, watching their eyes for tearing — because their eyes tend to be overly dry — and checking their eyelashes to make sure they not turning in. Bulldogs suffer acutely in hot weather, which causes their palates to swell, dangerously blocking the trachea. One person was expecting a baby and decided she really didn’t want to deal with the puppy. She said the puppy was willful, and soiled the crate.
Karen has also purchased bulldogs. “I love the breed. They’re individuals, selective about who they like, gregarious, happy, and friendly dogs.”
Sandy does bulldog rescue work in Missouri. “There are people who sell whole litters of puppies to puppy mills,” Sandy says. Show breeders, who promote the idea of buying from private “hobby” breeders only, are not supposed to sell to puppy mills, Sandy reports; but sometimes they do. “I end up with the bulldogs that puppy mills turn into shelters, or dump alongside the road. When the shelters receive these bulldogs they call me.” The males are usually in better shape, Sandy explains, because better nutrition is thought to keep their sperm count up, resulting in more puppies. Mothers will give birth three to four times before they are worn out.
“We paid $750 for one of the females at a puppy mill auction,” recalls Sandy. “Auctions are held regularly, although they advertise that the puppy mill is going out of business due to health reasons. They send out flyers. Other puppy mills come to these weekend auctions and bring stock trailers for hauling dogs. I went to an auction that had 22 bulldogs, and our kennel club pooled money to be able to buy as many of the dogs as possible. The auctioneers put one of the females on a table for bidding and called her a good producer. She could hardly stand up. One had a home-made C-section that had ripped open and after we bought her we rushed her to a veterinarian. Bulldogs can originate from terrible situations, but they’re resilient. They can be happy after their life changes.”
Sandy also gets dogs from homes where they are no longer wanted. “The typical excuses involve a boyfriend taking a dislike to a dog or someone expecting a baby who can’t cope with the responsibility of caring for a bulldog.”
Sandy participates in the show circuit, and breeds bulldogs. She declares: “My kennel has heating, air conditioning, outdoor runs, and a radio playing.”
Beverly runs a breed rescue group in Kansas. “We’re loaded with puppy mills. It’s expensive to breed bulldogs. There’s the cost of artificial insemination, C Sections, big vet bills, and sometimes surgery is needed to correct eye lids that roll in. So we see a large broker managing a lot of the commerce: the Hunte Corporation located in Goodman, MO. They house 1,500 to 2,000 puppies. They’re buying puppies from puppy mills, and they sell these puppies to pet stores. But all of this is backed by the AKC and USDA. The Hunte Corporation gives tours to schools.”
The Hunte Corporation touts itself as the largest puppy dealer in the world, with sales in the U.S., Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Spain, and Japan.4 The company distributes animals through retail enterprises with various names. Because of competition with other large brokers, the company is secretive about how many puppies the business sells and purchases each year.5
The corporation’s operational hub brings the state of Missouri money and jobs. And the state wants to keep it that way.6 In September 2001, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had approved a $900,000 guaranteed rural development loan to allow the Hunte Corporation to purchase equipment for its McDonald County operations, to restructure its debt, and to provide working capital for expansion.7 This followed a loan for $3.5 million from the USDA year before.8 Hunte said sales for the year 2001 would exceed $26 million — up from 1 million a decade earlier.9
The corporation, long under scrutiny from the public, now purports to set new10, higher standards. Chair Andrew Hunte says:
“The dog breeding industry has suffered a black eye in recent years, but we are out to change that image by putting animals first and ensuring they get the best humane professional treatment. We deal with breeders in several Midwest states who can meet our standards of quality care. We get the puppies at 8 weeks old and they undergo a week of quality care to make sure they are healthy before they are shipped to upscale pet stores around the country.” 11
Thus the company hopes to overcome the stigma and to support the profit potential of the industry they plan to lead.12 A guided tour of one of their sites revealed about five workers cleaning floors and checking food and water of yipping puppies in about seven rows of cages, each filled with one or two puppies.13 Although a reporter in 2000 found no listed violations in the last three USDA inspection reports of the Hunte’s Elkland, MO warehouse, the reporter was barred from photographing the inside of the building, on the grounds of company security and stress on puppies.14
The corporation holds an annual festival, with seminars for breeders who provide for the broker; Hunte also encourages them by providing a breeders’ support group.15 Further encouragement comes in the form of bonuses. An Arkansas Press advertisement naming the Hunte Corporation read: “MERRY CHRISTMAS! $25 Bonus on any puppies sold to us Dec. 4-19. Call us now!” 16
From the Mill to the Mall
Although millions of dogs die annually in pounds, breeding is a growth industry, with many mall shoppers willing to pay from $750 to $1,800.17 Maximizing profits from impulse purchases, the Hunte Corporation supplies Woof & Company, which currently operates 11 outlets in Northeastern shopping malls, and is gearing up for a nationwide presence by 2005, catering to an upscale crowd.18 “We’re not interested in going head-to-head selling dog food,” says Linda Povey, partner at consultancy Kanter International, which created Woof & Co. “We’re a lifestyle store.”19
Each puppy comes with a three-year warranty against congenital and hereditary defects.20 But the vendors want to ensure public acceptance and immunize their project from criticism. A new company name — “Rufus Inc.” — is being presented to the public this year, explains CEO Donald C. Jones, along with a plan to work with animal activists and veterinarians to ensure that the new stores will “enhance the communities where we live and work.”21 Jones has previously managed retail chains such as The Gap, Target, Ikea, Filenes and Macy’s.22 “We are thrilled to have Don Jones join Woof & Company,” stated Robert E. Brown, Jr., managing general partner of Meridian General Partners, the chain’s owner.23 “Woof & Company has aggressive plans to expand its successful concept nationwide…”24
The U.S. pet population is booming, and has risen to become a $30 billion-plus industry.25 The public has the power to reverse the trend, by declining to support such enterprises.
- 1. Lin-She-Ran kennel, a state and federally-licensed breeding business in Missouri housed 88 purebred pugs, Airedale terriers, Shiba Imu and Pomeranians. In October 2000, an inspector found that many were emaciated; some had broken legs, and six were dead. The survivors went to the Humane Society of Missouri in St. Louis, where some were nursed back to health and adopted. See Angela Wilson, “Ozarkers and Their Animals: Lax rules plague puppy market; Some breeders put profit before proper care, animal advocates say” — Springfield News-Leader (13 Dec. 2000) at 1B. Owner Randy Daugherty faced 12 counts of animal abuse — two felony and 10 misdemeanor — but only because another person in the town was willing to blow the whistle.
- 2. Angela Wilson, “Ozarkers and Their Animals,” ibid. (quoting Melissa Sartin, director of Missouri’s Castaways Animal Rescue Effort).
- 3. Angela Wilson, “Ozarkers and Their Animals,” ibid.
- 4. Ibid.
- 5. Ibid. See also Press Release, “USDA Approves Loan to McDonald County K-9 Distributor Blunt Announces” (5 Sep. 2001).
- 6. With over 1100 operations, Missouri has more breeders and brokers than any other state. See Angela Wilson, “Ozarkers and Their Animals,” note 1.
- 7. “USDA Approves Loan to McDonald County K-9 Distributor Blunt Announces,” note 5.
- 8. Ibid.
- 9. Ibid.
- 10. See, e.g., “Letters” in Promo Magazine; Primedia Business Magazines and Media (1 Mar. 2004) at 3. The issue’s editorial note said: “Our January issues got ‘jeers’ for a story on mall-based pet stores opened by Woof & Co. and supplied by Hunte Corp.” Example reader reactions included the letter of Sam Anderson, Pacific NW Basenji Rescue: “Ninety percent of the dogs I rescue are from pet shops. Each dog costs an average of $200 to rehabilitate, vet and rehome. Multiply that times a few thousand and you will understand why this new little business has a number of us in a tizzy.” Reader Susan R. Roscoe wrote: “Don’t be swayed by big names. Cruel is cruel, no matter whose idea it was.”
- 11. “USDA Approves Loan to McDonald County K-9 Distributor Blunt Announces,” note 5.
- 12. See Angela Wilson, “Ozarkers and Their Animals,” note 1. See also Retail-Merchandiser.com “Woof Names Jones President and CEO” (28 Oct. 2003) (quoting Jones as announcing: “My intention is to capitalize on this opportunity by leveraging Woof & Company’s unique store format and emerging brand to establish a market leadership position for the company.” ).
- 13. See Angela Wilson, “Ozarkers and Their Animals,” note 1.
- 14. Ibid.
- 15. Ibid.
- 16. “Classifieds Online,” Arkansas Press (dated 4 Dec. 2000; visited 24 Mar. 2004). The number in the advertisement was verified as belonging to Hunte affiliate Honey Dew on 1 Apr. 2004. Both names — Hunte and Honey Dew — are listed in the advertisement.
- 17. Lorin Cipolla, “Check the Small Print; Purebred Hotbed,” Promo Magazine; Primedia Business Magazines and Media (Jan 1, 2004).
- 18. Ibid. See also Retail-Merchandiser.com, “Woof Names Jones President and CEO” (28 Oct. 2003).
- 19. Lorin Cipolla, “Check the Small Print; Purebred Hotbed,” note 17.
- 20. Ibid.
- 21. Woof & Co. to be Rufus Inc.,“NEWStat Veterinary News, published by the American Animal Hospital Association (Vol. 2, Issue 5;10 Mar. 2004).
- 22. See Retail-Merchandiser.com, “Woof Names Jones President and CEO” (28 Oct. 2003). Former IKEA-U.S. president Steen Kanter took a request from Meridian Venture Partners to save nine Family Pet Centers from bankruptcy in 2002. See Lorin Cipolla, “Check the Small Print; Purebred Hotbed,” note 17.
- 23. Woof & Company is a portfolio company of Radnor, PA-based private equity firm Meridian Venture Partners (MVP) See Retail-Merchandiser.com, “Woof Names Jones President and CEO” (28 Oct. 2003).
- 24. See Retail-Merchandiser.com, “Woof Names Jones President and CEO” (28 Oct. 2003).
- 25. See Scott Saxon, “Wanna Be Your Dog,” Montreal Mirror (5 Feb. 2004).
Last year, Friends of Animals opposed a plan by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Atlantic Flyway Council to kill more than 30,000 mute swans by shooting 3,100 annually for the next 10 years in the Atlantic Flyway states of Maryland, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia, Delaware, Maine, Connecticut, South Carolina, Massachusetts, New Jersey and New Hampshire.
Friends of Animals provided research and arguments to expose the spurious scientific arguments behind the plan, and mobilized opposition through advertisements and a letter-writing campaign. The plan was derailed following public pressure on the agency to acknowledge the protected status of mute swans under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). The 88-year-old Migratory Bird Treaty Act prohibits hundreds of bird species that migrate across international borders from being killed or harassed.
Not content to leave the mute swans in peace, legislators are now looking to amend the Migratory Bird Treaty Act in a way that would allow the birds to be shot. On April 1, Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD) introduced a bill in the U.S. House of Representatives, which would amend the MBTA to exclude non-native species of migratory birds. If it passes, HR 4114 would remove the only federal protection standing in the way of the implementation of this killing program and the shooting of tens of thousands of mute swans.
What you can do:
Please contact your Congressional Representatives and ask them to actively oppose HR 4114. You can locate your Representatives at http://www.congress.org
The Honorable ______________
United States House of Representatives
Washington, DC 20515
Congressional Switchboard 202-224-3121
As Act•ionLine goes to press, a Senate bill has not yet been introduced. Please contact your Senators and ask that they actively oppose any legislative effort to remove species currently under protection from the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. You can locate your Senators at http://www.congress.org
The Honorable ______________
United States Senate
Congressional Switchboard 202-224-3121
Trusting in animal folklore can put you in a pickle, as I learned from an encounter years ago with a purring kitten. She was living hard, on mean city streets, and I was going to be her ticket out, and her audible purr — indicated contentment and friendliness, at least according to everything folklore has to say about it. Reading the message loud and clear, I reached for my new feline acquaintance, who, after taking full measure of the upright animal twenty times her size coming right at her, welcomed me with the equanimity of a multidirectional, ultra-speed buzz saw.
Of my current store of scars that mark hard-earned knowledge, those contributions from my street-dwelling kitten are now, after decades of sloughing skin cells, barely visible. And yet they carry fresh meaning: Only recently have we humans come to appreciate, if not fully grasp, the great depth of biological intelligence that underpins the behavior of nonhuman animals, such that my scars now serve as tangible reminders of what I shall call feline wisdom. I have in mind not her violent protest (which, given our size differential and the fact that she didn’t know me from Adam, was entirely logical, even if it may not have been in her best interest), but her purring.
Folklore on the subject is partly accurate. Cats may indeed purr when they are content, comfortable, and — dare I risk charges of anthropomorphism? — happy. But they may also purr in times of stress or pain. This is, in the parlance of evolutionary science, an adaptive behavior. Its value derives from the nature of sound, which may be thought of as a mechanical flow of energy in the form of waves, or vibrations. Subjecting these vibrations to measurement, scientists have found the deeper sounds cycle less frequently per unit of time than higher-pitched sounds. Purrs are deep sounds, ranging from 20 to 150 hertz (cycles per second). Housecats typically purr at 20 to 50 Hz. The smaller figure of this decidedly “low frequency” range happens to coincide with the lower limit to what is audible to the human ear (the upper limit is 20,000 Hz.). More important from the feline perspective, however: low frequency sounds promote health and healing.
One hesitates to cite research that has caused animals suffering, for fear of endorsing it. Surely such work cannot be defended morally. Fortunately, not all research on sound and its healing properties has included purposeful torture, however, and humane studies show exactly what inhumane studies show, namely that sound frequencies at 20 Hz to 50 Hz — precisely the frequencies of a housecat purring — increase bone density growth, induce the healing of injured tendons and muscles, and relieve pain.
Thinking back on my street kitten, it now seems she was venting her stress by purring. Likely she was also anticipating injury, which her purring would have done much to alleviate. That the healing benefits of her purring began well in advance of any actual injury was nothing less than a marvelous display of built-in preventive medicine. Of course the kitten turned the tables on me, which short-circuited everything, but at least she made the point that purring may signal discomfort as well as comfort. Any thoughtful person can find lessons here on how to best approach a purring cat. And yes, it’s a two-way street: the next time you suffer an injury you may want to call not a doctor, but a feline friend who readily purrs in pleasure of your company.
A purr is not entirely unlike a “grrr.” Tigers, although not known to actually purr, produce low frequency sounds — some that we humans cannot hear. Although most of their vocalizations are within the 40 to 60—Hz range, tigers occasionally create rumbling sounds of 18Hz, doubtless important for tiger-to-tiger communication. Any sound frequency below 20Hz constitutes “infrasound” and travels especially well. It not only covers long distances (up to seven miles) but also penetrates dense forests and even goes through mountains. Although many factors may come into play in the behavior of sound, generally the tiger’s rumbling, infrasonic grrr travels best under dry conditions and steady temperatures. The latter condition in the tiger’s natural habitat occurs at night, just when the animal is most active.
The tiger’s infrasonic communications resembles that of the more thoroughly researched elephant, two-thirds of whose vocalizations are infrasound. Although both male and female elephants trumpet, grunt, scream, and purr, females do most of the low frequency rumbling, in order to keep the typical matriarchate together. (Sexually aroused adult males rumble at a low frequency, probably to signal other males.)
The magnificence of their large ears notwithstanding, elephants use their feet to sense infrasonic vibrations often lifting one foot, or leaning forward on their toes, to discern the traveling direction of a distant rumble. When an elephant gently touches a dead calf or adult elephant carcass she or he is almost certainly searching for the sound of a pulse or heartbeat, an act that demonstrates not only a deep social bond but also a transcendent level of recognition.
Giraffes, alligators, hippos, and rhinos also produce infrasound: and many other species likely do as well. It seems a vast world of animal communication exists right under our noses, and our hearing range.
Low frequency sounds — say, growls above 20 Hz — have an emotional component to them. They get the serious attention of all vertebrates, partly because deep, low frequency sounds tend to come from large animals, and large animals, all other things being equal, command more respect than smaller animals. Furthermore, when low frequency sounds are harsh, they signal wide-awake attentiveness. Nonhuman animals regularly employ both these principles. When the situation calls for such, they use a deep voice to sound big, and a deep, harsh voice to signal heightened alertness. The whole performance is the auditory equivalent of piloerection, the phenomenon of hair standing on end, which makes the bearer appear larger and hyper alert.
Not infrequently, human behavior also conforms to the principles. Parents reprimanding a child, for example, tend to speak in harsh, deep tones; and rarely do people speak in other than harsh, deep tones in the heat of an argument. But here is where biological intelligence — and what often seems inability to demonstrate it — comes in. Nonhuman animals deploy deep, harsh tones to prevent fights from occurring. The strategy is simple: By sounding large and hyper alert, one forces a presumably rational potential opponent to back off.
Thus roaring lions, or growling bears, or bellowing alligators so vocalize not to precipitate violence but to prevent violence. Far from bellicose threats, their harsh sounds actually constitute a form of peace activism. Contrast this with human bellowing, which is nothing if not a direct threat of violence, one, moreover that is often carried out.
My long-ago buzz-saw kitten was not looking to fight me, of course, but reacting out of fear, which meant I should have done something to emphasize not large size and alertness, but their opposites. Nonhuman animals usually sense when that kind of behavior is called for; on occasion, even human animals do. When most of us talk to young children, for example, we use gentle, high frequency vocalizations. We talk to babies using baby talk. The effect is to sound small and relaxed, that is, non-threatening and reassuring. Precisely what that kitten needed. Here, then, is another lesson: Baby-talk to an animal who doesn’t know you. Yes, many people (mostly men, we can assume) will ever resist doing so, certain that it would be futile or even dangerous, and downright silly besides. Kittens, of course, know better.
William Mannetti is president and co-founder of Animal Rights Front, an all-volunteer, Connecticut activist group.