Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Taxpayers should foot the bill for low-cost spay neuter program

There appear to be exactly two things that Kern County residents can agree on when it comes to companion animals:

1) There are far too many companion animals being abandoned and euthanized.

2) A low-cost spay/neuter program could greatly alleviate item #1.

That seems to be as far as we get. Everyone gets that there is a problem, and no one can agree on a way to solve it. My plan is simple --- have homeowners fund a low-cost spay/neuter clinic.

Now before all the anti-tax-for-anything-at-all group gets their knickers in a twist, hear me out. Why shouldn’t we fund a spay/neuter clinic? After all, it’s our tax dollars that are being spent on every reactionary act that results from there being far too many homeless animals.

Our tax dollars fund Animal Control, although not nearly enough of them are used in proportion to the scope of the problem. Our tax dollars are used every time one of their trucks has to go out and round up a dangerous stray, or pick up a carcass on the side of the road. They are used for the costs involved in housing and feeding the animals that come through their doors, and to purchase the needles and euthanasia solution. And a few more are used to haul off the dead bodies to the rendering plant (or the crematory --- I never could get a straight answer out of Animal Control on that one).

It’s the money from hard-working taxpayers that is used for donations to the various nonprofit animal groups in the area, without which they would be ill-equipped to operate. Same goes for the host of rescue groups in the area. Without public funding in the way of donations, their ability to even begin to make a dent in the homeless pet population would come to a standstill. And where do those donations come from? Working, taxpaying people.

Even people who choose to take money from their own household budgets to alter the pets left behind when a neighbor moves out are using their after-tax money to try and make a difference (myself included).

And let’s not forget who picks up the tab when an uninsured individual is bitten by a stray animal. That would be us, the taxpayer, covering the emergency room costs for treating the wound.

So why not try something radically different? Why not decide that each home gets assessed $5 per year as part of their property taxes to fund a low-cost spay/neuter clinic?

Animals could be altered for a very low fee, thus reducing shelter intake rates, homeless pet rates and euthanasia rates. Fewer stray dog calls to Animal Control gives them more time to hold the animals that do come into the shelter and to work on proactive, rather than reactive, programs. Fewer strays mean safer streets for people to walk and children to play without the fear of encountering a loose animal. There would be fewer cats roaming around disturbing the carefully planted gardens of people who aren’t cat fans anyway.

Where’s the downside? The fact that it might be construed as a (gasp!) tax? Call it something different, then. Call it the Kern County Humane Pet Stewardship Act, if that helps. It’s $5 per year. The cost of one cup of designer coffee. Per household. And everyone wins.

Pets who need to be altered can get altered for a small fee. The veterinary staffs that perform the procedures are paid for their services, as they rightly should be. The number of homeless pets is greatly reduced, and stays reduced over time. Animal-related nonprofits can spend their time doing what they love, rather than feeling perpetually overwhelmed at the scope of the problem. And we become a community who finds a way to solve our own problems. All we have to do is decide that really want to do something, then do it.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ca State Senator Dean Florez Introduces SB250

Today, on Spay Day USA, California Senator Dean Florez introduced SB250, the Pet Responsibility Act. This bill simply states that people who choose not to spay or neuter their pets obtain a license for their intact animal.

If you spend any real time on their web site, Yes on SB250, and watch a few of the videos, how can you not support a cause that is so very needed in California?

It is time for us to take a long, hard look at ourselves as a society and ask what the hell are we doing killing all of these companion animals? We did this. We domesticated these creatures to serve our needs, our wants. Yet we as a society choose every day to turn a blind eye to the consequences of our actions. It's time to stand up and do whatever we can to reduce the number of homeless animals being euthanized.

Support SB250. Tell your elected officials that euthanizing homeless animals is not something you want to continue to spend your tax dollars to support. It's time to take a stand. Let's stand together on SB250.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Pet artist who rocks!

While vacationing in New Orleans I became enchanted by the artist Georg Williams. Several of his prints were available at one of the many art galleries we visited, as well as information about commissions.

So much of what I see advertised these days looks a lot like someone takes a photograph of your pet, runs it through some computer software and pops out an altered likeness. It's not that I find anything wrong with that, but Williams functions on a completely different level. I find his work to be much more reminiscent of the art found in Disney animated pieces like Lady and the Tramp or the Aristocats, but uniquely suited to your pet.
If I ever win the lottery (or come across some extra cash) I'd love to have him put together something for me. For now I may have to settle for a few of his prints.

If you'd like to check out how truly talented this artist is, head to his web site by clicking here.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Ode to the spouse of a pet lover

There’s a certain level of madness that comes into play when one chooses to marry a pet lover. Sure, you were aware that your intended loved animals, but that small fact left you wholly unprepared for the direction your life would take.

How shopping for things as ordinary as chairs, tables or carpet would become a discussion not about what style or color would best suit us, but what item would last the longest under the daily onslaught of critters, and what color would best blend in with the pet hair. Or, now that the cats are older, how high a bar stool is too high for the cats to safely jump into.

Or how we would trade in a perfectly serviceable table and chairs (granted, the chair back edges had been thoroughly chewed by the cat) for a different raised table because it allowed the cats a better view through the kitchen windows.

You had no idea that “disposable income” meant money for neutering neighborhood strays or covering vet costs for creatures who needed a little help, or that your garage would become a virtual rehab center for critters needing a little extra time to heal --- and that at any moment another rehab case could show up on the doorstep.

You never imagined that there were oh-so-many animal programs on TV, and that you would get to know the doctors on Emergency Vets by sight. Or that there were as many pet contests, pet sporting events, pet magazines, pet books, pet products and pet videos in the world as there are, and that at some point you would see most of them.

It never occurred to you that your spouse would be sporting a puppy bag the way other women carry baby bags, and would do so with equal pride, displaying all of the great dog items that can fit in a bone-shaped bag for anyone who asks.

And you didn’t know you were marrying a stalker who wanders through the aisles of PetSmart and Petco hoping to see a puppy or a friendly dog just so she can say hello (although you quickly found a way to pretend that you had no idea who the crazy lady is).

Then there’s the leisurely car ride cut short because your spouse had to pick up a sick kitten on the side of the road (see vet bills, above), or morning rescue endeavors for injured pups that no one else was going to help, or keeping a stash of pet food in the car in case we came across an animal too scared to accept help, but not too proud to eat.

I’m fairly certain you didn’t know that trips to far-off places never get taken because the funds just got donated to the pets’ food bill, or vet bill, or toy bill or some nonprofit that needed a little extra help.

And I haven’t even started in on the poop, and the puke, and the hairballs. Yeah, I’ll bet no one ever told you how much pets can do all three of those things, sometimes simultaneously, and often at the least opportune moments. If there were a doctorate program in poopology, you’d most surely be given a degree based on experience.

Though there’s been some grumbling at times (and sometimes a wee bit more than grumbling), you’ve hung in there and have seen past the fur to the heartbeats that reside beneath it, and you’ve gotten it. I’m not saying you always enjoyed it, but you did get it. And in getting it, you’ve gotten me, and the essence of who I am and what matters in my world.

It may not be what you picked, but it’s what you got. And you stayed. I love you…not just for these reasons, but they easily rank in the top ten.

Happy Valentine's Day.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Connections sculpture at LSU

Sculptor Meg White created this amazing fountain, titled "Connections", for the serenity garden at the veterinary teaching hospital at LSU. The piece was commissioned in 2003, prior to Hurricane Katrina, to commemorate those who work to aid animals, but has taken on new meaning since the hurricane.

To see more of her artistry go to her website, Sculptors Two.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

If you won't quit smoking for your own health

Turns out nearly one in three pet owners will quit for the health of their pets. According to an article by HealthDay reporter Ed Edelson, pet owners would consider quitting smoking after hearing how secondhand smoke may shorten the lives of their furry friends. For the full article, click here.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Los Angeles getting proactive about animal cruelty

The L.A. Times published a great story this weekend about their county's efforts to combat animal cruelty. Although parts of the story were difficult for me to read, as I have a hard time shaking the imagery associated with cruelty stories, the efforts of the LAPD and the District Attorney's office to get serious about animal abusers are to be commended. As Deputy District Attorney Deborah Knaan said in the article, "They cannot talk. They cannot get away. . . . They're totally vulnerable. It's our huge obligation to them to take care of them."

I'm glad to be living in a time where I can actually witness the changes being made in the public's views towards animals and our treatment of them, and that as those changes are being made they garner this sort of press attention. Here's hoping that Los Angeles provides a model that will be duplicated across the country. To read the article in its entirety, click here.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Breed profiling hits Lancaster CA

On January 27, the Lancaster City Council voted unanimously for mandatory spay/neuter for Pit Bulls, Rottweilers or dogs whose physical characteristics are determined to look enough like one of those breeds, as determined by law enforcement. The law is to go into effect thirty days from the date of the meeting. The council also voted in stiff fines and other penalties for owners of these breeds should the dog be determined to be “potentially dangerous” or “vicious”.

This measure was voted in supposedly to target gang members, who law enforcement says uses these dogs to terrorize other citizens. According to the Los Angeles Times, Lancaster Mayor R. Rex Parris believes that law enforcement can tell which brown people in Lancaster are gang members and which are citizens just by looking at them. Same goes for the dogs.

Boy, I’m glad to hear that there are psychics on staff who can determine, just by looking at them, which dogs are “potentially dangerous”. And to hear that if you cannot punish those whom you believe to be responsible for wrongdoing, you’ll take the big-man step of killing their dogs instead. After all, if one reads the article in the Antelope Valley Press you’d think the streets were slick with the blood of small children killed by dogs on a near daily basis.

Except, of course, that during a three month sweep in the area, most of the 283 calls animal control officers got about pities were for loose or stray dogs, and that the one attack that seems to be on the record happened in 2006, when a toddler was attacked at the home of a family friend --- not at the hands of the local gangs.

And it’s darn big of the mayor, when asked about good dogs being affected by the ordinance to be willing "to bear the weight of some injustice" against responsible pittie owners.

Look, I’m completely in favor of responsible pet ownership, and I strongly believe that some form of animal population control is definitely in order, not only for Lancaster, but for huge swaths of the Central Valley. But to be so single-handedly vitriolic towards a couple of breeds is wrong. And he clearly seems to have a deep personal bias against these dogs and the people who choose to own them.

"Even if people who are not gangbangers have their pit bulls taken away, it means that these beasts are off the streets," Mayor Parris said. "And they are indeed beasts.”

No, Mayor Parris, they are dogs. What people have done to them is beastly, and your inability to tell the difference between the two doesn’t make you much better.

For a couple of other takes on the matter, head to L.A. Now or Unleashed.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

If I Didn't Have so Many Dogs & Cats . . .

Another Internet gem I thought I would share...

If I Didn't Have so Many Dogs & Cats . . .

I could walk around the yard barefoot in safety.

My house could be carpeted instead of tiled and laminated.

All flat surfaces, clothing, furniture, and cars would be free of

When the doorbell rings, it wouldn't sound like a kennel.

When the doorbell rings, I could get to the door without wading
through fuzzy bodies who beat me there.

I could sit on the couch and my bed the way I want, without taking
into consideration
how much space several fur bodies would need to get

I would have money and no guilt to go on a real vacation.

I would not be on a first-name basis with 6 veterinarians, as I put
their yet-unborn grandkids through college.

The most used words in my vocabulary would not be: out, sit, down,
come, no, stay, and leave him/her/it ALONE.

My house would not be cordoned off into zones with baby gates or
barriers. I would not talk 'baby talk'. 'Eat your din din'. 'Yummy
yummy for the tummy'...

My house would not look like a day care center, toys everywhere.

My pockets would not contain things like poop bags, treats and an
extra leash.

I would no longer have to spell the words B-A-L-L, F-R-I-S-B-E- E,
W-A-L-K, T-R-E-A-T, B-I-K-E, G-O, R-I-D-E.

I would not have as many leaves INSIDE my house as outside.

I would not look strangely at people who think having ONE dog/cat
ties them down too much.

I'd look forward to spring and the rainy season instead of dreading
'mud' season.

I would not have to answer the question 'Why do you have so many
animals?' from people who will never have the joy in their lives of
knowing they are loved unconditionally by someone as close to an angel
as they will ever get.

How very EMPTY my life would be!!

The story of Opie

I'm a sucker for feel-good stories, especially during these tough economic times. This wonderful video tells a great story about how a few people can make a world of difference. It's a little longer than many, coming in at around nine minutes or so, but well worth it.

The Story of Opie

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