Monday, August 16, 2010

Story City Cat Tales

This is not a tale with a happy ending. It is bittersweet, because some animals were saved, but many died that did not have to.

Once upon a time, in Story City Iowa, there was a hoarding situation. Hoarding has become a very "hot" topic these days: Animal Planet has a series called Confessions: Animal Hoarding that explores the world of people who keep animals under unsanitary conditions while believing that they are helping them.

If you watch any of the Animal Cops shows that cycle through on Animal Planet (and I do), then you know that they regularly feature hoarding situations. And, as is all too often the case, many -- heck, most -- of the animals "rescued" from such a situation end up being "humanely euthanized" (don't get me started on the meaning of that oxymoron). Unfortunately, we have come to accept this as the norm. But it's not. There are many people who are rethinking the customary way of deciding what animals to save and what animals to know. And the ones who want to save more than they kill are starting to pull ahead. But not in every case.

The Story City event really seems to have fallen through the cracks. In a big way. Even getting the straight facts is hard.

But here is what I know. Through the persuasion of the family, a hoarder agreed to surrender about 50 cats that had been living (along with the hoarder) in really horrendous conditions. The cats were being relinquished into the custody of a Story City Vet, Dr. Bright. She, in turn, contacted another vet, Dr. Deppe, for assistance.

At this point, I want to refer you to Dr. Deppe's Blog, Veterinary Rescuer, for her account of the travesty that happened at Story City. Here is the link:

As you can see from what Dr. Deppe has said, the majority of the cats did not have to be carted away in red tagged carriers slated for euthanasia. They could have been saved. Dr. Deppe herself had arranged for homes with fosters or on farms for the feral cats, which would have been a perfect solution.

Instead, it seems that ego and proprietary behavior got in the way.

Now, it's hard to find out if these doomed cats even existed. People who have asked the ARL about these cats have been stonewalled. Some who have contacted the ARL's Facebook page about this situation have been summarily banned.

No one admits to being "in charge" of the situation. Not the Story City PD, not the ARL, not the Story City one.

Maybe the cats didn't exist! That would explain why they disappeared -- but wait, Dr. Deppe was able to find homes for a dozen cats. So they did exist. But where did they go? Did ARL adopt any of them out? Did they euthanize them?

In Delaware, it is illegal now for an animal to be euthanized if there is any alternative -- an adopter, a rescue organization, a foster, whatever. What happened in Story City is now illegal in Delaware. There were people waiting for those cats. Dr. Deppe was going to treat the sick ones and perform any necessary surgery without cost or by raising funds from people willing to lend a hand.

In the end, 12 cats were saved, including one orange kitten thrown in at the last moment, according to Dr. Deppe, to appease her and giving her an even dozen.

The bad news, and the sad ending -- many of the cats who could have been saved, weren't. And apparently NO ONE was to blame.

The epilogue to this story: a group called Citizens for Animal Welfare Reform has launched itself as a means to lobby for passage of a law to protect animals from euthanization, to start with Iowa and get a law passed similar to Delaware's Companion Animal Protection Act. But CAWR doesn't stop there -- every state needs a law like this. This group has issued a call to action for people from all over the country to join them and help animals in the most powerful way they can -- by getting legal protection for them.

That's the real end of the Story City Story. I'm not a big proseletyzer, but I AM a child of the 60s, so I know the importance of grass roots movements.

If you want to know more about the Companion Animal Protection Act, see this blog entry by Nathan Winograd:

The End (of Euthanasia, I hope)

Friday, March 26, 2010

What the Blogger Saw

Drayton Michaels has another blog entry that goes beyond mere criticism of Cesar Millan. Here is his entry:

Here is my response:

I am so sorry you have lost your perspective regarding Cesar Millan. Please read Malcolm Gladwell's essay "What the Dog Saw" from the book of the same title. In that, he relates a beautiful description of the real interpretation of viewing the DW with the sound off and it's not at all what most people claim it is. Cesar is not cruel, nor does he use pain in order to train a dog.
Cesar Millan is open to change and evolution. It sounds as if you are not. My experiences with using his techniques and his philosophy have been positive, and I have a well-balanced, funny Plott Hound to show for it.
There are real issues such as puppy mills, dogfighting, BSL and ending the practice of euthanizing healthy dogs that require our time and attention. You are wasting your apparently considerable energy and verbiage on someone who is, in fact, not only on your side but one of the strongest positive forces acting on behalf of dogs.

I could not leave a comment on his blog because comments are limited to "team" members, presumably people who agree with him.

This makes me very sad, particularly since he obviously cares a great deal about dogs, and is an advocate of the bully breeds.

To my way of thinking, he is wrong and wrong-headed on so many levels it is hard to know where to begin answering him. There are some people whose stand on a subject is so entrenched that they are immune to any kind of reasonable disagreement or rational dialogue.

I am so afraid that this is one of those circumstances.

I may begin counting to 10 now...

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

When Dog Bloggers Go Bad, Or Why Can't We Be Friends???

I posted a response to the following site that was highly critical of Cesar Millan, referring to both him and to Barbara Woodhouse (No Bad Dogs) as teaching others to train animals by abusing those animals. Here is the website:

Here is my response:

Jackie Cassada
Your comment is awaiting moderation.

I believe that you are doing yourself a disservice by labeling Cesar Millan (and Barbara Woodhouse, by the way) as abusive just because you have a different approach toward working with dogs to change their behavior. You speak as if Cesar were the only person in the field who is using the methods he uses that you object to, while in reality, there are many other dog trainers, dog rehabilitators, etc. who use similar methods.

Dog abusers raise dogs for the fighting pit — Cesar does not do this. Dog abusers murder dogs in ways that redefine the limits of cruelty — Cesar does not do this. Dog abusers maintain puppy mills — Cesar has cooperated with a number of groups to address the problem of puppy mills and has helped rescue dogs (mostly breeding dogs) from these hell holes. Dog abusers starve their dogs, deny them adequate water and shelter, spend little to no time with them — Cesar does not do this.

If you disagree with his use of physical touch (which is different from hitting or kicking), the alpha roll, verbal corrections, etc., then say that’s what you oppose. But don’t call it abuse, because it’s not. You are devaluing the term. Michael Vick abused his dogs — he murdered them by drowning, bashing their heads in, electrocuting them. That’s abuse!

Cesar does not criticize people who differ from him in their methodology. He says that all ways are good that do not harm the dog — and his ways do not harm the dog. Neither do yours. The fact that you denigrate him and charge him with abuse tells me that you respect only those people who agree with you, that you hate and fear those who believe differently from you. To my way of thinking, you should reconsider your own attitude toward people who are outside your comfort zone. You are liable to end up as a xenophobe who hates that which is “other.” I don’t think this is what you want.

Cesar bashing is “in” right now, and you have obviously joined that club. It is not one that speaks very highly of what you believe, however. I have many friends who are different from me — in race, religion, politics, cat person/dog person identity, etc. I respect their right to be different.

You speak of Millan’s and Woodhouse’s obvious love for animals, yet by saying they abused the animals they worked with, you are gainsaying your own comments. Please, if you are going to write about someone and criticize them, do so with clarity and sound reasoning — or else admit you are just out to get them.

To quote from “Living on the Edge,” a song by Aerosmith, who paraphrased the Yardbirds’ “Mister, You’re a Better Man”: “If you can tell a wise man by the color of his skin, then mister, you’re a better man than I…”

My respect and admiration for Cesar Millan, both for his methods and for his philosophy, has turned me into a passionate defender of him against the very vocal critics of his who apparently think nothing of calling him names in a public forum. Cesar, himself, has never, to my knowledge, commented adversely about those in his field who are opposed to his methods. His silence and refusal to be drawn into public feuds speaks volumes for his personal integrity.

His critics' eagerness to put him down, on the other hand, tells me that they can only win if someone else loses.

Give me a win/win scenario over a zero-sum solution anyday. Eve and the Cat Pack heartily agree!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Cesar Millan's Mastering Leadership Series Volume #5: Common Canine Misbehaviors: a Review

I just finished watching this great DVD highlighting five common canine misbehaviors: aggression toward other dogs -- both dominance and fear based aggression; barking at a specific stimulus, such as someone approaching the door; barking when left alone -- separation anxiety; overexcited or hyperactive behavior; and problems on the walk. Each topic receives a thorough treatment, breaking down the behaviors and solutions into easily remembered steps.
The examples are good ones -- often amusing, always helpful and to the point. In most cases, Cesar discusses alternate methods and emphasizes using ways that feel comfortable to the owner and to the dog. Over and over again, he points out the places where professional consultations are highly desirable -- such as in aggressive behaviors.
Special features include brief discussions on dogs with fear of loud noises (thunder, fireworks, etc.), finding the right canine professional for you and your dog and tips from veterinarian Dr. Rick Garcia about how to establish and maintain an appropriate exercise routine.
This is a very helpful DVD and has inspired me to try to do a better job with my dog Eve in the upcoming year. Cesar is a great "explainer" and an inspiring teacher. The dogs used in the examples come from a variety of breeds and mixes. Finding something useful in this DVD is not hard at all, and it is a learning experience you may want to share with your dog-owning friends.
I give it four out of four paws! :) (and a tail wag)