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(Beth Clifton collage)

Western range issues can be seen from space

            BILLINGS,  Montana––No one needs to take anyone else’s word about the condition of the western range.  Monitor Google Earth for a while and ancient sages will tell you all about it.

First,  though,  it is necessary to understand the evolutionary and ecological relationships among sagebrush,  grasslands,  and forest.

Sagebrush, grasslands,  and forest are all essential components of the western wildlife ecology,  from the northern Rocky Mountains of Alberta south to the Sonoran desert of northern Mexico.  All three habitat types are clearly visible from space,  often intersecting and partially overlapping.

Whitetail deer, grass, & sagebrush.
(Beth Clifton photo)

Sagebrush,  grassland,  or forest?

Advocates for controversial species––including wild horses,  beaver,  bison,  bighorn sheep,  elk,  mule deer,  sage grouse,  wolves,  grizzly bears,  prairie dogs, and pumas––are all in gist disputing with ranchers over how much habitat,  of which types,  should be allocated to wildlife by federal and state land management agencies,  as opposed to sheep and cattle.

But underlying the frequent furors over the animals and their specific habitat needs is the ecological reality that whichever animals are favored,  the actual choice to be made is among whether sagebrush,  grassland,  or forest is to be most encouraged.

Rainfall and runoff from snowmelt,  or lack thereof,  often limits the leeway for choosing.

Prairie dog.  (Dave Pauli photo)

Why beaver & prairie dogs are “keystone” species

Certain species,  especially dam-building beaver,  help significantly to slow the rate of water loss to runoff and evaporation,  and therefore improve the habitat for many other species.

Several other species,  notably prairie dogs and ground squirrels,  dig burrows that help water to soak into the earth,  as well as providing habitat for species including badgers,  blackfooted ferrets,  burrowing owls,  snakes,  and tortoises.

Species who eat and transport acorns and pine seeds, mostly birds and rodents,  help to replant tree cover that shades and cools habitat,  eventually encouraging more rainfall.  The tree roots then help to retain the runoff.

But this process requires from decades to centuries to transform any given locale, and is easily set back by drought,  insect infestations that kill trees,  wildfires,  or premature logging,  meaning logging that is done before enough leaves or needles accumulate on the forest floor to nourish regrowth.

Pryor Mountain wild horses in June 2018.  Note how sparse the grass is,  even before the driest months.
(Beth Clifton photo)

No species regulates rain & snow

Though some animal species help to conserve water more effectively than others,  no animal species directly increases the amount of rain and snow that falls.

Grass-grazing animals,  in general,  tend to help grasslands to regenerate.  Grasses have evolved to be grazed,  relatively rapidly regenerating if allowed a few weeks to grow back after being eaten down.  But grass-grazing animals can expand grasslands only if there is precipitation and topsoil enough for windblown seeds and undigested seeds in droppings left at the margins of the habitat to take root and grow.

Most of the controversies pertaining to the presence and relative abundance of cattle,  sheep,  bison,  elk and horses on the western range amount to disputes over which species will be allowed to eat the limited grass supply and drink the relatively scarce available fresh water.

Cattle grazing on the Pryor Mountains National Horse Range plateau.  (Beth Clifton photo)

Just grow more grass?

In abstract theory such conflicts could be prevented,  if enough grass could be grown to feed all of the animals who want and need it.

Reality,  though,  especially since the effects of global warming became evident,  is that most of the western range does not get enough precipitation to grow grass at an optimal rate.

Suppose all the cattle and sheep now on range leased to ranchers by the Bureau of Land Management were to be removed and sent to slaughter tomorrow,  as many conservationists have vocally wished since the heyday of EarthFirst! in the 1980s.

Suppose those cattle and sheep were never replaced by other domestic stock,  and that cattle and sheep were never again fed with hay and grain collected from the western range.

Even if all of that somehow came to pass,  despite the political reality that such changes have a a snowball’s chance amid global warming of occurring within the foreseeable future,  rain-and-snow-irrigated pasture enough no longer exists to keep millions of bison,  elk and wild horses grazing,  defecating seeds and fertilizer,  and then moving on before their hooves damage the topsoil,  as these species did for hundreds of years in pre-settlement times.

Sage grouse.  (Beth Clifton collage)

When sagebrush succeeds grass

Parched grasslands,  if overgrazed,  tend to go toward sagebrush (some say “revert” to sagebrush,  but most sagebrush habitat has not been grassland within millennia,  and the converse.)

Like “grasses,”  which in nature rarely grow as a single-species monoculture,  the habitat called “sagebrush” is a constellation of species, many of them closely related,  growing in partially competitive,  partially symbiotic confluence.

Sagebrush in general tends to thrive in dryer soils than grasses,  grows more slowly,  and is less nutritious for most grazing animals than grasses,  though cattle,  sheep,  wild horses,  elk, and bison all will consume sagebrush after the grasses in their range area become depleted.

Sagebrush is also less nutritious than leaves and green twigs for browsing species such as mule deer and whitetail deer,  but mule deer in particular often depend on sagebrush to sustain them when seasonal browse is depleted.

Pronghorn  (Wikipedia photo)

Pronghorn:  a special case

Only pronghorn antelope,  the least numerous and least controversial hoofed species common to the western range,  seem to consume sagebrush as their food of preference.

Mostly smaller than mule deer,  though their size range overlaps,  and much more thinly distributed,  pronghorn may be the only western grazing or browsing species not specifically represented by an influential dedicated interest group.

By far the fastest North American mammal,  evolving to evade the long extinct North American cheetah,  pronghorn have been on the western range since before the Ice Ages,  longer even than coyotes,  who with pumas are their major predators.

Unregulated hunting appeared to threaten pronghorn a century ago,  but at present pronghorn appear to be among the species best adapted to the effects of global warming.

Wild horses on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation.  Note the sparse grass in the foreground and the sagebrush advancing up the eroded hillside in the background.  (Beth Clifton photo)

Sagebrush did not evolve to be fodder

Because sagebrush regenerates slowly,  compared to grass,  sagebrush is poorly suited to sustain intensive consumption by hooved animals who––unlike pronghorn––eat a lot before moving on.

Typically sagebrush will colonize overgrazed and eroded former grassy habitat,  but sagebrush in depleted habitat can only thrive if it is not overgrazed as the grasses were.

Herein lies one of the major points of controversy involving cattle,  sheep,  and wild horses.  Cattle and sheep,  if not overstocked,  tend to be removed and sent to slaughter at the end of each growing season,  before grasslands become so depleted that the livestock lose weight and turn to eating less nutritious growth.

Bison (Beth Clifton photo)

Home on the range

Wild horses remain on the range year-round,  therefore depleting what grass remains after cattle and sheep are removed.  Wild horses then tend to trample sagebrush in search of grass,  and finally consume sagebrush until the grass recovers.

This activity tends to offset the role of wild horses––and sheep and cattle––in converting grasslands to sagebrush habitat through overgrazing and dust-bathing.

Meanwhile,  and also of note,  former grassland that goes to sagebrush rarely returns to grassland without intensive human intervention.

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(Beth Clifton collage)

Future of logging,  hunting,  fishing & ranching region lies with nonlethal wildlife tourism

            TWISP,  Washington––Vanishing salmon,  Washington’s worst wildfire roaring through the Methow River Valley in July 2014,  and flash floods that turned roads into rivers even before Finley Canyon stopped reeking of smoke and ash have brought beaver back to the Upper and Lower Beaver Creek Road habitat east of Twisp,  a 121-year-old former mining and logging town officially claiming 970 human residents.

Beaver had been trapped out of the Beaver Creek neighborhood since before settlement began in the 1880s.

Beaver. (Beth Clifton photo)

The question now is whether the beaver will be tolerated or trapped out,  in a state where trappers continue to pelt from 1,000 to 2,000 beaver per year,  according to Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife statistics.

“Beaver Creek”

The “Beaver Creek” to which the road names refer is in truth Frazer Creek,  a tributary of the actual Beaver Creek.  Frazer Creek is now dammed by beavers in several places,  at possible risk of the dams contributing to seasonal flooding and soil erosion at vulnerable points along both Upper and Lower Beaver Creek roads and Route 20,  the North Cascades Highway.

The beaver’s log points toward a lodge in the Frazer Creek restoration area. Note the steep slope, burned bare in 2014, at lower right.
(Beth Clifton collage)

That,  plus the easy visibility of the beaver work from the highway,  may bode poorly for beavers who fail to move farther upstream and downstream before trapping season,  to locations where they are no longer so easily seen.

But whatever flooding and erosion might be attributed to beavers will be a fraction of the damage that occurred largely because of their absence,  detailed in the Frazer Creek Rehabilitation Plan published in March 2017 by the Methow Salmon Recovery Foundation.

Beaver ponds could have saved 350 homes

The fire was part of it.  Had beaver ponds covered the bottoms of more foothill meadows,  instead of dry grass,  three separate small fires started by lightning could not have combined into the Carlton Complex Fire

“The Carlton Complex Fire claimed 353 homes, 149 other structures,  700 to 1,000 head of cattle, thousands of acres of rangeland and at least 100 acres of tree fruit orchards,”  reported Ann McCreary of the 115-year-old Methow Valley News in September 2014.

Further,  McCreary added,  the Carlton Complex Fire “charred more than 256,000 acres in the Methow Valley and surrounding areas,  including thousands of acres of winter range essential to the survival of mule deer and white tail deer.”

Mule deer doe & fawn.  (Beth Clifton photo)

On top of the flood damage,  most of the fire damage still had to be reckoned with.

Deer fared better than people

“Range for about one-third of the wintering deer may have been affected by the fire,” Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist Scott Fitkin told McCreary.

Offered Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife regional director Jim Brown,  “It’s the largest fire that ever occurred on a mule deer range.”

Of the estimated 25,000 mule deer living west of the Okanogan River before the Carlton Complex Fire,  about half had been in the Methow Valley.

Beaver.  (Beth Clifton collage)

Despite the fears of September 2014,  the mule deer have fared well on early second growth.  Humans in the Methow Valley,  many already economically struggling,  continued to struggle,  especially after the July 2014 loss of trees and shrubbery from steep slopes allowed heavy late summer rainfall to accumulate into torrents that swept some of the few buildings which survived the fire hundreds of yards downstream,  or just reduced them to rubble.

Beavers busy,  but people out of work

Unemployment in Okanagan County runs about 10% above the U.S. average.  Unemployment among members of the Confederated Tribes of Colville Reservation is as high as 60%,  more than ten times the national average.

Okanagan family household income is about 20% below the U.S. average.  Family median income is about 25% below the U.S. average.

Forestry,  agriculture,  hunting,  fishing,  and mining,  the five traditional mainstays of the local economy,  together account for 15.3% of employment,  significantly less than health care,  education,  and social services (22.8%).

Black bear. (Beth Clifton photo)

Logging won’t be back

The loss of standing timber to the 2014 fire dashed hopes that an eventual revival of logging might bring jobs to the Twisp area.

The Twisp Wagner sawmill,  built in 1941,  employed 400 people by 1963,  but closed permanently in 1985 after two changes of ownership in two years.  The former sawmill premises have for the past 30 years been a gravel pit.

The last of three local mines that produced gold and zinc from 1897 until after World War II shut down much longer ago than that.

Puma at Big Cat Rescue.
(Beth Clifton photo)

Ranchers & hunters hold political grip

Ranchers and hunters hold a political grip on the region,  chiefly through the influence of Joel Kretz,  61,  the Republican deputy minority leader of the Washington State House of Representatives.

Kretz appears to have been best known,  before he was elected to the statehouse in 2005,  for puma hunting and trying to poke loopholes through Washington state law discouraging puma hunting with hounds.

Kretz does not appear to like wolves or grizzly bears,  either.

New York Times magazine writer Christopher Solomon on July 5,  2018 profiled Kretz’ notorious antipathy toward predators,  and especially toward former Washington State University at Pullman predator ecologist Rob Wielgus,  whose studies have spotlighted the ecological roles of  pumas,  wolves,  and grizzly bears.

Joel Kretz

“The enemies of the wolf”

“Rob Wielgus was one of America’s pre-eminent experts on large carnivores,”  summarized Solomon’s headline.  “Then he ran afoul of the enemies of the wolf,”  especially Kretz,  whose influence allegedly forced Wielgus into early retirement.

In May 2017 Wielgus reportedly received $300,000 to settle a lawsuit Wielgus filed against Washington State University with the assistance of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility.

Kretz raises cattle and horses near Wauconda,  just west of Twisp.  But Kretz comes originally from Mercer Island,  a Seattle suburb chiefly known as a bedroom community serving Microsoft workers.  And his political career appears to have centered on trying to keep Okanogan County locked into the past.

Left: “Suicide Hill,” where the Omak Suicide Race begins. Foreground: the finishing stretch.  (Beth Clifton photo)

Suicide Race

Among Kretz’s accomplishments in office have been winning appropriations in support of the Omak Stampede rodeo,  an event featuring a multi-heat “suicide race” since 1933 in which riders plunge down a 225-foot cliff at a 60-degree angle,  cross the Okanogan River,  and gallop into the rodeo arena.  At least six horses and one rider––who drowned in 1942––have died in connection with the event,  which nominally celebrates the importance of ranching to the community.

But ranching,  a non-labor-intensive pursuit even in 1933,  and less so now,  has never employed more locals than apple-picking,  and is unlikely to ever employ many more.

Grizzly bear #126 near Banff.  (Beth Clifton..

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(Beth Clifton collage)

Friends of Animals blocked use of contraception while wild horse herd multiplied

            GARDNERVILLE,  Nevada––One of the largest planned gathers of wild horses in recent memory,  scheduled for Pine Nut Mountains Herd Management Area of western Nevada in fall 2018,  results directly from Friends of Animals’ May 2016 claimed success in causing the Bureau of Land Management to retreat from deploying contraceptives to stop herd growth.

The Bureau of Land Management reinstated the use of contraceptive horse herd population control as a component of a 10-year management plan introduced on November 28,  2017,  but by then the estimated Pine Nut Mountains horse herd had increased to nearly four times the estimated optimal population for the range.

(Anthony Marr photo)

Range population four times optimum

The Bureau of Land Management now intends to remove 575 wild horses from the Pine Nut Mountains,  leaving about 80,  including 26 horses and not more than 8 colts near Fish Springs,  human population 650,  the largest community within the herd management area.

“There is one certainty,”  ANIMALS 24-7 concluded on May 16,  2016,  in reporting about Friends of Animals’ claimed victory.  “Pressure will continue to build for the Bureau of Land Management to remove Pine Nut Mountains wild horses from the range,  hard hit by drought and other probable effects of global warming.

Most dramatic were the Bald Mountain fire of 2012 and the Bison Fire of early July 2013,   which burned 37 square miles on the east-facing slopes of Galena Peak and Mount Siegel.

The Bureau of Land Management planned gather made a prophet out of ANIMALS 24-7,  but that it would be coming was never hard to predict.

(Beth Clifton photo)

15 years of almost unrestrained herd growth

The Pine Nut Mountains wild horse herd has grown with little restraint other than range conditions since 2003,  when the Bureau of Land Management rounded up and removed 320 horses of the then-estimated 438 horses in the 98,600-acre wild horse herd management area.

The herd management area is about 25% of the total of 400,000 acres in the Pine Nut Mountains that are under BLM control.
Based on historical experience,  the Bureau of Land Management believes the Pine Nut Mountains herd management area can sustain from 118 to 179 wild horses,  who seasonally share the range with cattle and sheep.

After the 2003 gather reduced the Pine Nut Mountains wild horse herd to barely 100,  the herd doubled to circa 215 by 2010,  increased to about 332 by 2014,  and is now around 775,  according to the Bureau of Land Management.

(Beth Clifton photo)

Herd reduction pending since 2013

The Bureau of Land Management proposed to gather and remove wild horses from the Pine Nut Mountains Herd Management Area in 2013.

Objected Wild Horse Conspiracy author Craig C. Downer,  “1,511 cow-calf pairs and 12,707 sheep graze its several allotments at various seasons.  This is the equivalent of over 1,000 cow-calf pairs grazing all year long,”  with “a preponderance of grazing early in the season when forage is highest in nutritional value.”

But the Bureau of Land Management has been mandated by law to lease grasslands for grazing ever since the ancestral agency was created by Congress in 1812.  Though the 1971 Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act added wild horse conservation and management to the BLM responsibilities,  the BLM is required to balance the needs of horses with cattle and sheep grazing,  and does not have the option to simply evict cattle and sheep to favor horses.

The 2013 planned gather was stopped when U.S. District Judge Larry Hicks “ruled that the BLM failed to conduct the necessary analysis required under the National Environmental Policy Act,”  summarized Scott Sonner of Associated Press.

Science & Conservation Center staff including director Kimberly M. Frank (center) and senior scientist Kayla Grams (right).  (Beth Clifton photo)


Meanwhile,  stretching for 40 miles southeast of Carson City toward the California border,  the Pine Nut Mountains appeared to be the ideal place to test the contraceptive vaccine ZonaStat-H in wild horses,  offering highly varied habitat,  easy road access to keep the wild horse herd under observation,  and one of the best-documented wild horse populations anywhere.

Based on porcine zona pellucida,  extracted from the ovaries of slaughtered pigs,  ZonaStat-H was developed by the late Jay Kirkpatrick at the Science & Conservation Center,  on the premises of ZooMontana in Billings,  Montana.

Called PZP for short,  ZonaStat-H had been used successfully in zoos and with wild horses under National Park Service jurisdiction at Assateague Island,  Maryland since 1994.

Kirkpatrick died at age 75 in December 2015,  but the Science & Conservation Center continues to produce ZonaStat-H and other species-specific PZP variants for use in hoofed animal population control by zoos and wildlife management agencies around the world.

(Beth Clifton photo)

Contraceptive trial began in 2010

A Pine Nut Mountains trial of ZonaStat-H was begun in November 2010.  Encouraged by the results from a preliminary test of ZonaStat-H on 24 mares,  the Bureau of Land Management initiated what it called the Fish Springs Wild Horses PZP Pilot Project in December 2014.

Project partners included the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign,  a coalition of more than 60 wild horse advocacy organizations,  and Pine Nut Wild Horse Advocates,  of Gardnerville,  Nevada,  a city of about 5,250 people just west of the Pine Nut Mountains Wild Horse Herd Management Area.

(Beth Clifton photo)

FoA & Protect Mustangs blocked PZP use

Friends of Animals and another group,  Protect Mustangs,  delayed the Pine Nut Mountains trial of ZonaStat-H with a lawsuit filed in January 2015,  alleging that PZP harms horses and that using it would violate Judge Hicks’ 2013 order.

The Bureau of Land Management a year and a half later killed the ZonaStat-H trial rather than fight a second lawsuit threatened by the same organizations.

Friends of Animals then unsuccessfully appealed to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to cancel the registration of PZP for use in wild horses,  consistent with a 25-year FoA history of opposition to animal contraceptives while promoting surgical sterilization of dogs and cats.  The latter was the original purpose of Friends of Animals,  incorporated in 1957.

(Beth Clifton photo)

“We have had the rug pulled out from under our feet”

After the Bureau of Land Management reinstated the use of ZonaStat-H in the Pine Nut Mountains in November 2017,  volunteers did much of the work involved in contracepting mares.

“Our community was working together with our local BLM to manage our world famous wild horses,”  protested the Pine Nut Wild Horse Advocates page on Facebook.  “Suddenly,  after years of tireless work, keeping wild horses out of neighborhoods, holding community meetings, darting the mares in the field with fertility control,  and attending meetings with BLM and state representatives,  we have had the rug pulled out from under our feet and the BLM informs us they will be coming to remove all but 26 of our horses.

“These horses are a big tourist attraction for our area,  with people coming from all over the world to see them on their holiday visits,”   the Pine Nut Wild Horse Advocates statement continued.  “Advocates are willing to remove bachelor stallions incrementally and continue to provide fertility control. The bands will over time decrease due to natural attrition. Our program can work if BLM cooperates with locals and is consistent.”

Instead of blaming Friends of Animals,  however,  for two years of delay that allowed the horse herd to increase,  Pine Nut Wild Horse Advocates blamed the Bureau of Land Management for allegedly “dragging their feet” in completing the environmental assessment required by Judge Hicks.

(Beth Clifton photo)

“Triple-digit heat”

After word of the fall 2018 planned gather circulated, “Hundreds of people from as far away as Elko and Sacramento [on July 12,  2018] braved near triple-digit heat in Gardnerville,”   wrote Benjamin Spillman of the Reno Gazette Journal,  “where impassioned speakers condemned Bureau of Land Management plans to use bait traps and helicopters to pluck” the 575 targeted horses from the mountainous desert terrain.

“BLM officials say they haven’t done a major removal in the area for eight years,”  Spillman continued,  “and that overpopulation threatens the health of the land,  other wildlife,  and habitat that could potentially support sage grouse,”  a threatened species.

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(Beth Clifton collage)

Chicago animal control director out;  Oakland director quit but is still there, for now

            CHICAGO,  OAKLAND––More than two weeks after Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel controversially fired two-year Chicago Animal Care & Control director Susan Russell,  and more than two months after Oakland Animal Services director Rebecca Katz put her job on the line to shake loose funding to fill vacant veterinary staff positions,  hardly anyone before ANIMALS 24-7 seems to have mentioned that both Russell and Katz collided with the same realities.

Specifically,  “no-kill animal control,”  as defined by a 90% “live release rate,”  cannot be achieved within the limitations of big-city budgets,  at the same time as protecting the public and meeting humane animal care standards,  if two-thirds or more of the incoming dogs are pit bulls:  dangerous to handle,  hard to rehome,  and resource-intensive to safely house.

Rahm Emmanuel

Katz is still on the job in Oakland after winning additional shelter funding at an eight-and-a-half-hour city council meeting on June 20,  2018.  Russell appears to be out for good despite pit bull advocacy pressure to bring her back.

Russell & Katz each claimed 88% “live release rate”

Both Russell and Katz have long identified themselves with pursuit of the 90% “live release rate” goal.  ANIMALS 24-7 has long pointed out that this goal is unrealistic at a time when relatively few animals received at shelters are easily rehomed puppies and kittens,  while the majority of dogs are either impounded or owner-surrendered due to dangerous behavior.

A 90% “live release rate,”  if achieved,  practically by definition requires subjecting the public––and the pets of the public––to unacceptable risk.

Russell nonetheless claimed to have achieved an 88% live release rate for dogs in 2017.

Katz,  before taking the Oakland job,  achieved an 88% live release rate for dogs as San Francisco animal control chief,  2008-2014,  including a 37% increase in dog adoptions during her tenure.

Differing styles,  friends,  & foes

Demonstrating differing styles and priorities as animal control chiefs,  despite espousing similar philosophies,  Russell and Katz have thereby had differing friends and foes.

Russell,  among the noisiest pit bull advocates ever to head an control agency,  was pushed for the job by pro-pit organizations and ardently pro-pit WGN/Chicago radio show host Steve Dale.  When her management came under criticism,  especially for allowing kennels to become overcrowded and for allegedly rehoming dangerous dogs,  Russell was defended by the pro-pit bull Animal Farm Foundation and the Best Friends Animal Society.

Susan Russell & what she calls a “Chicago dog.”
(Chicago Animal Care & Control photo)

Dale et al have also militantly protested against Russell’s firing.

San Francisco required pit bulls to be sterilized

Katz,  a much quieter person,  drafted a 2006 San Francisco ordinance mandating that pit bulls must be sterilized if brought within the city limits.  Her October 2014 hiring to head Oakland Animal Services was vehemently opposed by the Oakland-based pit bull advocacy organization BADRAP,  and also by the Oakland-based No Kill Advocacy Center,  founded by pit bull booster Nathan Winograd.

The San Francisco ordinance reduced San Francisco animal control intakes of pit bulls by two-thirds in two years, and brought San Francisco the lowest volume of pit bull killing in shelters of any major U.S. city.

Rebecca Katz (SF/ACC photo)

Katz in Oakland has had the help of no such ordinance.  Nearly 75% of the dogs recently advertised as available for adoption on the Oakland Animal Services web site have been pit bulls or pit mixes.  Most of the rest have been German shepherds or German shepherd mixes,  among a handful of other dogs of large,  aggressive breed,  including Rottweiler,  Dogo Argentino,  and Cane Corso.

“Gave it my best”

Katz has promoted pit bull adoption at least as vigorously as Russell,  if less flamboyantly,  winning over some but certainly not all of the Oakland pit bull advocacy sector.

“I gave it my best for more than three years,  and Oakland Animal Services is in a much better position than when I inherited it,”  Katz told volunteers in an April 25,  2018 email,  “but I simply cannot continue to work at an agency that does not get the resources and support from the city needed to fulfill its mission.”

Katz sent the email,  KQED-TV reported,  shortly after the resignation of the then-only Oakland Animal Services veterinarian,  Jen Dalmasso,  who took a position at the Alameda Pet Hospital.

“Dalmasso came on board in 2016,”  KQED-TV said.  “She says she had only one veterinary technician and an unlicensed assistant. Meanwhile,  she was treating up to 30 animals every day.  The only remaining veterinary technician is transferring out of the area next month, Dalmasso says,  and the assistant will be going on maternity leave this summer,  leaving the center with no veterinary staff.

Rebecca Katz  (Facebook photo)

“I could not continue on at the pace I was going,”  Dalmasso said.

“Modest needs & requirements”

Reported the East Bay Times,  “Katz said she submitted her letter of resignation to the city earlier this year [in March 2018],  and laid out a list of ‘modest needs and requirements’ for Oakland to provide that would change her mind.  Those included hiring people for vacant positions,  some of which had been unfilled for more than two and a half years;  advocating for more funding and positions in the 2018 mid-cycle budget;  and getting the police department to ‘honor their obligations around animal investigations.’”

Katz appears to have won her showdown with the Oakland city council for now,  but the shelter will continue to be flooded with dogs of high-risk history and difficult adoption prospects until and unless Oakland passes––and enforces––legislation to suppress pit bull proliferation.

“Warehousing” dogs

Russell,  “The $130,008-a-year executive director of Chicago’s chronically troubled Animal Care & Control shelter,  was fired for ‘warehousing’ dogs in conditions that made dangerous dogs more dangerous,”  reported Chicago News senior political reporter Fran Spielman.

Citing  “City Hall sources,”  Spielman wrote that “Russell’s fate was sealed by her underlying philosophy that every dog, even those deemed dangerous, could be rehabilitated.  Russell’s refusal to acknowledge what one source called the ‘downside of that business’ resulted in the city pound operating beyond capacity since mid-February.”

Susan Russell
(Chicago Animal Care & Control photo)

Elaborated Spielman,  “‘Warehoused’ dogs were ‘stored in offices and inhumane conditions,’ a City Hall source said.  That exacerbated dangerous behavior,  and ‘multiple volunteers and staff members,’  including Russell,  were bitten by dogs.

“58% increase in biting incidents”

“Despite a 58% increase in biting incidents over the last year,”  Spielman continued,  “Russell disputed the warehousing charge.  City Hall sources,  though,  argued that dangerous dogs were adopted out,  only to be returned.  Other shelters,”  receiving transfers from Chicago Animal Care & Control,  “were losing confidence in the city’s ability to distinguish between dangerous dogs and those that could be safely adopted, the sources said.”

Spielman said that some sources had mentioned “‘an unreasonable level of risk’ and liability for Chicago taxpayers.”

Russell told Chicago Tribune reporter Tessa Weinberg that she “was provided no explanation” for her firing.

Susan Russell
(Chicago Animal Care & Control photo)

Recounted Weinberg,  “In a meeting at the mayor’s office with Emanuel’s chief of staff Joe Deal, Russell said she was asked to resign.”

Was asked to resign,  would not,  & was fired

Said Russell,  “They asked me to resign and I did not wish to resign,  and from there it was a termination.  I said, ‘Why? What is the explanation for this?’ And I received none.”

But Russell appeared to have been at risk of termination for at least six months,  in part for promoting pit bulls in a manner conflicting with the Chicago Animal Care & Control mandate to protect public health and safety––although Russell herself appears to have only cats as personal pets.

On multiple occasions Russell,  prior to her appointment as Chicago Animal Care & Control director,  promoted pit bull advocacy literature and memes on Facebook.

Two years before becoming Chicago Animal Care & Control director,   Russell published a book for children entitled Shelter Dog Kisses: And How You Get Yourself Some!,  encouraging children to volunteer in animal shelters,  depicting a pit bull on the cover.

Priorities in conflict

Though Chicago Animal Care..

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(Beth Clifton collage)

“Blood feud” with anti-whalers began when Sea Shepherds sank two of his ships in 1986

REYKJAVIK, Iceland––Kristján Loftsson,  the “Captain Ahab” of the North Atlantic,  has furiously denied that the 22nd of at least 27 whales killed by his ships in June and July 2018 was the first endangered blue whale harpooned by whalers since 1978,  but experts around the world think otherwise.

News of the July 10,  2018 killing was relayed to media by the German organization Hard to Port,  incorporated in October 2014 specifically to oppose the Icelandic whaling industry,  and by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

“Photographs and video taken by the Sea Shepherd UK team on the ground near the whaling station clearly shows that the whale was a blue whale,”  charged Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson.

(Beth Clifton collage)

Hard to Port aerial video showed that whaling station crew,  used to butchering and rendering fin whales,  clearly knew this whale was unusual.  Personnel took turns running up the body of the whale to be photographed.

Hybrid blue/fin whale?

Blue whale/fin whale hybrids have occasionally been reported.  As international outrage over the alleged blue whale killing intensified,  Loftsson insisted to the BBC that,  “I am absolutely confident that it’s a hybrid.  To mistake a blue whale for a fin whale is impossible,”  Loftsson insisted.  “This whale has all the characterizations of a fin whale in the ocean.  There are a lot of blue whales off the Iceland coast,”  Loftsson acknowledged.  “When we see the blows and sail to it,  and we realize it is a blue,  we leave it and go and look for fin whales.”

But,  said U.S. National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration whale identification expert Phil Chapham,  from the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle,  “While I can’t entirely rule out the possibility that this is a hybrid,  I don’t see any characteristics that would suggest that.  From the photos, it has all the characteristics of a blue whale.  Given that – notably the coloration pattern – there is almost no possibility that an experienced observer would have misidentified it as anything else at sea.”

(Beth Clifton collage)

Speaking to CNN,  University of Hawaii at Hilo marine mammalogist Adam A. Pack pointed out “the way the dorsal fin is hooked,  the pointed pectoral fins,  and the size of the animal,”  along with the lack of the white lip typical of fin whales.

Blue whales protected under Icelandic law

“Blue whales are protected under Icelandic law,  with their capture prohibited,” said Stefán Ásmundsson,  Icelandic representative to the International Whaling Commission,  in a prepared statement.  Iceland,  though a party to the International Whaling Commission,  has exempted itself from observing the 1986 IWC moratorium on all commercial whaling.

The Icelandic government reportedly took samples of whale meat and blubber from the premises of Loftsson’s whaling company,  Hvalur,  for DNA analysis which may take months to complete.  But Watson alleged that the integrity of the sampling may have compromised because the Hvalur personnel had already had the opportunity “to butcher the whale just like it was another fin whale – the meat,  skin,  blubber and bone all now mixed in with the fin whales previously caught.”

Kristjan Loftsson.  (Beth Clifton collage)

Loftsson ships to kill 164 more fin whales this year

Hvalur, operated by Loftsson at huge annual losses,   intends to kill 191 fin whales in 2018,  the company announced on April 18,  2018.

On April 19,  2018,  Loftsson sold 34% of his shares in the HB Grandi commercial fishing empire for $217.5 million,  apparently to help finance his whaling exploits.

Fin whales,  who like blue whales are on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “red list” as a globally endangered species,  are the second largest of the baleen whales,  colloquially known as the “great whales.”  Only blue whales are bigger.

Havalur ship at work.  (Greenpeace photo)

Hunts only fin whales

Fin whales are not hunted by Norwegian whalers,  and have seldom been killed by the Japanese “research whaling” fleet.

But Loftsson,  75,  has long made a point of hunting only fin whales,  arguing that the IUCN and International Whaling Commission population estimates are seriously low.

Loftsson contends that there are about 40,000 fin whales in the North Atlantic ocean,  up from 25,000 in 2006 when the Icelandic government reauthorized whaling,  after a 20-year hiatus.  The Hvalur company has killed 706 fin whales since then,  and now plans to accelerate the pace.

(Sea Shepherd Conservation Society photo)


The Japanese and Norwegian whaling industries likewise kill whales in defiance of the global moratorium on commercial whaling.  Bolstered by government subsidies,  amounting to half or more of the cost of killing each whale,  the Japanese and Norwegian whalers appear to hunt as much to thumb their noses at world opinion as to make money.

But nose-thumbing in the name of maintaining national pride in a failing traditional industry is only part of what appears to most motivate Loftsson,  whose father founded Hvalur in 1947.  The company name means “whaler” in Icelandic.

Loftsson first sailed with his father as a 13-year-old whale spotter in 1956.  Loyalty to his father’s memory may be part of Loftsson’s motivation.

The Havalur 6 and 7, scuttled at dockside in 1986.
(Sea Shepherd Conservation Society photo)

Quest for vengeance

But as with Captain Ahab,  Loftsson appears to be driven chiefly by a quest for personal vengeance.

Instead of losing a leg to Moby Dick,  a giant white sperm whale,  Loftsson in November 1986 had his whale processing plant in Hvalfjörður fjord vandalized and two of his whaling ships scuttled in Reykjavík harbor,  by anti-whaling activists Rod Coronado and David Howitt,  in an operation sponsored by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

The Hvalur 6 and Hvalur 7 were both refloated,  but were never repaired and returned to service.  Loftsson now kills whales with the Hvalur 8 and Hvalur 9,  of similar appearance but newer construction.

Scene from Njal’s Saga.

Coronado and Howitt escaped from Iceland before the damage was discovered.  The statute of limitations for prosecuting them expired more than 20 years ago.

Ignores lesson of Njal’s Saga

But Loftsson has yet to satisfy the grudge he holds over the episode,  generalized to all who applauded the Sea Shepherd action,  and for that matter,  to everyone who opposes whaling.

Ironically,  as a self-appointed defender of the Icelandic Viking heritage,  Loftsson flouts the central lesson of Njal’s Saga,  the 13th century foundation of Icelandic literature,  which recounts a blood feud that raged from 960 to 1020 and warns against pursuit of revenge.

Diversifying from whaling into fishing,  Loftsson long ago became one of the wealthiest men in Iceland.

Now,  more than anyone else,  observed Nick Miller,  European correspondent for Sydney Morning Herald,  in June 2015,  Loftsson keeps Iceland involved in whaling,  irrespective of expense.

The Hvalur 6 and 7, videotaped from the air by Jaromir Stanczyk in 2016.

“Croaky-voiced millionaire”

“This croaky-voiced millionaire is well connected politically (even by the standards of an island where just about everyone knows everyone), short and defiant,”  Miller wrote.

Agreed Tom Mackenzie and Ed Kiernan of Bloomberg News in September 2015,  “If there’s one man keeping Iceland’s controversial whaling industry alive, it’s Kristjan Loftsson.”

“He believes the world has wrongly turned against him,” International Fund for Animal Welfare representative Sigursteinn Masson told Mackenzie and Kiernan.

Loftsson sees himself as the superhero in a “battle between good and evil,”  Masson explained.

“Masson says Loftsson’s continued anger is what drives him on,”  summarized Mackenzie and Kiernan.  Hardly anyone seems to disagree.

Fin whale.  (Wikipedia..

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(Beth Clifton collage)

Humane societies played hooky

            SASKATOON,  Saskatchewan,  Canada––From the perspective of 1,500 miles and more than two weeks away,  the most remarkable aspect of the recent 5th International One Health Congress in Saskatoon,  Saskatchewan was that even though hundreds of people participated,  many of those who should have been there were not.

No one attended representing any animal advocacy or animal welfare organization,  not even the local humane society.  Yet disease kills vastly more animals and causes more animal suffering than any factor other than slaughter for meat consumption.

Indeed,  more animals are killed to control the spread of deadly infectious diseases than through any other deliberate human activity.

(One Health Congress 2018 photo)

“Stamping out”

More cruelty occurs just in the routine “stamping out” response of agricultural agencies to outbreaks of avian influenza,  the fungal infection Newcastle,  foot-and-mouth disease,  and many other diseases common to poultry and livestock,  than in all use of animals for entertainment,  biomedical research,  and even sport hunting.

Hundreds of thousands of animals are gassed,  buried alive,  or even burned alive in disease-driven holocausts,  just because desperate officials and farmers cannot find any faster way to respond to outbreaks they would much rather prevent.

Much of the 5th International One Health Congress addressed preventing disease epidemics and pandemics,  and identifying the real threats they pose,  as well as refuting the myths and superstitions that often fuel public and agribusiness panics.

Merritt & Beth Clifton [center] at the One Health 2018 opening media conference.
(One Health Congress photo)

Animal agriculture

It is possible,  perhaps even likely,  that the scale and importance of animal agriculture will contract in coming decades through the growing popularity of vegan and vegetarian substitutes for meat,  leather,  and dairy products.

The advent of cell-cultured products that are chemically identical to meat,  but made without using animals,  might soon produce an evolutionary shift in human diet,  as the organizers of the July 20-21,  2018 third annual New Harvest conference in Cambridge,  Massachusetts project.

Reducing the scale of animal agriculture is a focal animal advocacy goal.  But even if it is accomplished,  and quickly,  millions of animals are likely to remain on farms,  suffering from disease and disease control measures,  for many more years.

(Beth Clifton photo)

Should the animal advocacy and animal welfare communities not at least take an interest in improving those animals’ existence?

Opportunities lost

Countless opportunities for collaboration among scientists,  public health agencies,  and organizations dedicated to preventing animal suffering were lost in the poster session meetings and hallway discussions that never took place,  simply because half of the people who should have been participating were not there,  and were not represented by anyone else.

Meeting ProMED.mail senior editor Larry Madoff (left) was among the highlights for us of One Health 2018.
(Beth Clifton photo)

Young researchers dedicated to eradicating canine rabies from Pakistan and several African nations,  for instance,  working for government agencies,  urgently needed introductions to the animal welfare societies which have already been addressing rabies in those places for decades.  Each has tools and experience that can hugely help the others.

No animal shrinks

Also conspicuously absent from the 5th International One Health Congress were scientists studying any aspect of animal psychology.  There appear to have been no ethologists on the program,  for example.

Several speakers mentioned in passing how poor animal welfare can lead to depressed animals engaging in behavior,  such as the “cribbing” of horses who gnaw their surroundings,  that may help to transmit disease.

But no one spoke about how to keep animals mentally healthy in confined or working environments.  No one seemed to have any philosophical objection to integrating improved response to animals’ emotional needs with improved therapeutic and preventative veterinary care,  but no experts were present to talk about how.

Elk near Cody, Wyoming, gather at a water source near human homes.  (Beth Clifton photo)

No “compassionate conservationists,” either

Responding to diseases transmitted by introduced adaptive species was among the frequent concerns raised at the 5th International One Health Congress.

While some of the speakers issued the clichéd warnings and denunciations of “invasive species” that have become standard conference fare in recent years,  others more thoughtfully weighed the positive aspects of adaptive species with the negative.

Specifically,  some speakers noted that more competition among varied species can reduce the rate of spread of infectious disease by reducing the concentrations of vulnerable animals around any given food source or water hole.

Some mentioned that increased predation can actually encourage the abundance of species at risk from infectious diseases,  since predators tend to cull the sick animals before they can infect many others.

People involved in the newly emergent academic discipline of “compassionate conservation” might have had much to contribute to the discussion,  and much to learn and share.  But no one there––besides ourselves––seemed to know what “compassionate conservation” is.

(Beth Clifton collage)

Journalists “bugged out”

Most noticeably absent,  unfortunately,  were the mass media journalists who should have been attending dozens of the conference sessions,  helping to translate scientific information that was often presented as a jumble of jargon into articles that can help inform the public.

Almost every 5th International One Health Congress session included presentations of findings which,  in context,  should have interested the readers of one section or another of any mainstream newspaper:  public policy coverage on page one with discussion on the editorial page;  farm-and-business plus health,  education,  and family coverage in the inside pages;  and there were even some presentations relevant to sports,  horoscopes [one speaker mentioned how beliefs in astrology can interfere with appropriate disease response at the community level],  and the comics,  as many a cartoon flashed during PowerPoint presentations.

John McKenzie of the University of Saskatchewan [left] and Ab Osterhaus [right] at the One Health 2018 opening media conference.  (Beth Clifton photo)

Even if shrinking newsroom staff and budget kept most major mass media from sending at least one reporter,  freelancers and stringers should have been at the 5th International One Health Congress in force. Infectious diseases cross species boundaries

Only some of the blame for the absences can be ascribed in any way to the One Health Congress organizers––and blaming them at all seems a bit unfair,  inasmuch as they cannot have been expected to invite anyone whose existence they may not have known about,  and in any event could not have dragged the absentees in bodily.

The One Health Congress founders and organizers have for a decade now labored to persuade the global public health,  veterinary,  and environmental communities that infectious diseases routinely cross species boundaries and should be studied and addressed with recognition that animal and human health are a continuum.

William Karesh [left] and ANIMALS 24-7 editor Merritt Clifton [right].
(Beth Clifton photo)

They have succeeded to some extent in raising awareness.  Keyword searches of the archives at NewsLibrary.com show that mentions of the term “One Health” in connection with zoonotic disease have increased tenfold in ten years––but remain few compared to the totality of coverage of animal welfare issues,  zoonotic disease outbreaks,  and relevant scientific findings. Broad inclusion

Former Woodland Park Zoo and Wildlife Conservation Society senior scientist William Karesh,  who reputedly coined the term “One Health,”  and Dutch virologist Ab Osterhaus,  who chairs the One Health Platform and convened the 5th International One Health Congress,  have long emphasized broad inclusion.

In that spirit,  ANIMALS 24-7 was invited to attend and report about the congress proceedings.  While this is the first article to result from our attendance,  it will scarcely be the last,  as we make use of a wealth of new sources and contacts in coming months.

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Please send us the date,  place,  logo,  and contact information for your upcoming public event! 2018

July 17-20:  45th Annual Southeastern Animal Control Conference, Newnan,  Georgia.  Info:  www.saca-conference.org or choffman@cityofnewnan.org.

July 20-21:  New Harvest conference on “cell-cultured agriculture,”  Cambridge,  Massachusetts.  Info:  https://2018.new-harvest.org/.

July 20-23:  Taking Action for Animals conference,  hosted by the Humane Society of the U.S.  Arlington,  Virginia.  Info:  http://www.cvent.com/events/taking-action-for-animals-2018.

July 22-24:  6th International Symposium on Non-Surgical Fertility Control for Dogs and Cats,  Boston,  Massachusetts.  Info:  www.acc-d.org.

September 3-5:  Africa Animal Welfare Conference 2018,  Nairobi,  Kenya.  Info:  www.aawconference.org.

October 6, 2018:  Global March for Elephants and Rhinos.  Info: http://march4elephantsandrhinos.org/ 

October 26-28, 2018:  India for Animals 2018,  Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations biennial conference,  Hyderabad,  India.  Info:  http://fiapo.org/upcoming-events/.

November 2-4:  Whales & Us,  The Next Generation,  American Cetacean Society 16th international conference,  Newport Beach,  California.  Info:  http://www.acsonline.org/2018-conference.

November 9-12:  7th International Meeting on Emerging Diseases & Surveillance,  IMED 2018,  Vienna, Austria.  Emphasis on diseases that pass from animals to humans.  Info:  http://imed.isid.org/index.shtml.

Beth & Merritt Clifton

Please donate to support our work: http://www.animals24-7.org/donate/
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(Beth Clifton collage)

Around the Saratoga Passage in 80 days

Shot through the wing by an as yet unidentified poacher,  but rescued by ANIMALS 24-7,  Elvis the Eagle on July 10,  2018 returned to the air after 80 days of rehabilitation.

The release,  by ANIMALS 24-7 photographer and social media editor Beth Clifton,  was directed by Progressive Animal Welfare Society wildlife naturalist Jeff Brown and witnessed by three visiting New Zealanders who helped to capture the event on video and in snapshots.

Brown brought Elvis back to Hidden Beach,  here alongside the Saratoga Passage on Whidbey Island,  Washington,  after Elvis had spent just over two months at the PAWS wildlife rehabilitation center in Lynnwood,  on the mainland.

Progressive Animal Welfare Society naturalist Jeff Brown.

Preparing for takeoff

Before the release,  Brown carefully surveyed the habitat to ensure there were no active eagles’ nests nearby,  and no already alerted mobs of crows ready to harass Elvis during his first flights after returning to nature.

Wanting Elvis to start into a headwind,  so as to rise into the air more easily,  Brown checked the breeze as cautiously as a light plane pilot preparing for takeoff.

All bystanders were positioned and briefed on what to do to avoid frightening Elvis.  A variety of cameras were set up.  Then,  at Brown’s signal,  Beth opened the transport cage and hurried behind it,  so that Elvis would not see her.

(Beth Clifton photo)

Elvis varied the script

Elvis was expected to rush out of the cage,  spread his wings,  and soar up to perch in a nearby tree.  That is what rehabilitated eagles usually do.

Instead,  Elvis rushed out of the cage,  made a right turn,  and hopped up on a driftwood log in the nearest deep shade to do his own habitat survey.  He could see where he had been shot,  about a quarter mile north.  He could see all of us.  He could see the entire expanse of beach,  along which he had been carried in a big dog crate at high tide when rescued.  He could see nine crows foraging on the mud flats between himself and the water.

(Beth Clifton photo)

Cocking his head this way and that,  Elvis took a few experimental hops before finally flying into a tree about 100 yards south.  Resting for about 10 minutes,  Elvis later flew back to a tree just above his release point,  then flew a quarter mile south,  shaking off a half-hearted pursuit by several crows.  He seemed ready to resume life as a normal juvenile bald eagle,  still several years from establishing his own territory and mating.

Old dogs & grey whales

The successful rescue,  rehabilitation,  and release began when the ANIMALS 24-7 team on April 20,  2018 ventured to Hidden Beach,  a few blocks from our home and headquarters,  to jog,  walk with our dog Bo,  and watch wildlife.

In particular,  we hoped to see whales,  having seen both grey whales and orcas earlier in the week,  farther out in the Saratoga Passage.

Grey whales were present,  foraging for ghost shrimp and spouting in the shallows,  closer than we had seen them before,  but we had barely had time to look before distant neighbor Jim Pfifer rushed up with his old Malamute.

Elvis the bald eagle where we found him.
(Beth Clifton photo)

Jim told us he had seen an injured eagle on the beach about a mile north,  but he had been unable to approach because he was afraid the Malamute might have spooked the eagle into sudden movement,  making whatever the problem was worse.

Suspicious mind

Uncertain if the eagle would still be there,  with the tide already high and rising fast,  we decided Merritt would run up the beach to reconnoiter,  while Beth followed with Bo,  and tried to photograph the whales on her way.

Merritt found the eagle,  a four-year-old male,  right where Jim said he would be,  perched on a piece of driftwood near the base of a cliff,  opening and closing his mouth and stretching out his wings,  but unable to fly.

Merritt’s first thought was to see if the eagle might step over to a smaller piece of driftwood,  that he could carry back to Beth,  but the eagle was having none of that.  There was nothing for Merritt to do but meet Beth,  take Bo,  jog back to the parking lot along the ribbon of sand,  crushed shells,  rocks,  and seaweed that remained above the tide,  and go get our biggest dog crate,  leaving Bo at home.

Us, Elvis, & a grey whale.  (Orca Network photos)

Now or never

Beth,  a former vet tech,  experienced with big birds,  did a field assessment of the eagle’s condition and named him “Elvis.”

Recounted Beth later on Facebook,  “The tide kept rising.  Before Merritt could return, Elvis tried to climb the cliff and fell a foot or two.  I used my jacket to cover him and lifted it slowly to find his humongous talons.  Once I had his legs secure in my hand,  I pulled down the other part of my jacket and covered his head with my knit hat,  then scooped him up in my jacket and made my way to meet Merritt,  who was now in sight,”  carrying the big dog crate,  splashing through the surf as the whales circled and fed nearby.

“We placed Elvis in the large crate and made our way back through the rising tide,  over a mile of snags and driftwood,”  Beth continued.  “We were tired, but determined!  We did it!”

Elvis in flight cage.  (Beth Clifton photo)

At the biggest snag,  where we had no choice but to wade,  one of the whales glided by parallel to us,  almost close enough to exchange “high fives.”

All shook up

We drove Elvis to the veterinary clinic in Oak Harbor that helped Ollie the malnourished great horned owl a little over a year earlier,  after he crashed into the surf and Beth plucked him out.

The only enduring casualty of the episode was Beth’s cell phone.

Somehow,  in carrying Elvis down the beach,  Beth’s cell phone absorbed a fatal dose of salty moisture, perhaps from whale spray––she did not drop it.

Because Beth uses her cell phone to do all of her work for ANIMALS 24-7,  including photography and photo-editing,  we replaced it immediately.  But unfortunately an appeal we sent to readers soon afterward failed to recover the full cost of the replacement.

(Beth Clifton collage)

Hound dog

Beth,  meanwhile,  returned Elvis to the wild after rescuing two runaway dogs from traffic in two days.

Sophie,  a beagle mix,  had escaped from her home,  without her person realizing she was gone,  and was running around in the road nearby.

The other dog,  a Cavalier King Charles spaniel,  escaped from her person’s car en route to a veterinary appointment by jumping out of the open driver’s side window when the driver stopped at an intersection.  We saw the spaniel and the driver racing around in frantic,  chaotic circles through several large front yards,  while the car sat idling in the road.

While Merritt was parking and putting on our four-way flashers,  Beth ran across the road,  squatted down,  and called to the spaniel––who immediately broke out of his wild orbit to run directly into her arms.

Beth & Merritt Clifton
Animals 24-7

Help us make it through the night!

Doing hands-on animal rescue is not our focal mission here at ANIMALS 24-7,  but when occasion demands,  whether to lead a llama out of traffic as we did in September 2014,  or to pick up a lost ferret at a city park,  as we did in March 2017, or to bring an injured eagle to safety through the surf,  we take pride in demonstrating how to do it quickly,  safely,  and effectively––just as we take pride in presenting calm,  professionally delivered news and analysis.

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(Beth Clifton collage)

“Wake up & smell the coffee”

Wrote Sioux City Journal editor Bruce Miller on July 4,  2018,  marking the 100th anniversary of the birthdays of identical twin sisters Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren,  “When it comes to common sense, no one topped Ann Landers and Dear Abby.  The two native Sioux Cityans dispensed miles of columns designed to help readers get over heartache, financial woes and anger. They also believed in a sense of decorum and civility.  

“On what would have been their 100th birthdays,”  Miller suggested,  “we’d be wise to ‘wake up and smell the coffee,’  as Ann used to say,  and look at what has happened.  Blaming others for your mistakes,  killing the messenger and trying to gain an advantage at someone else’s expense aren’t what our founding fathers had in mind when they crafted the Declaration of Independence.”

Miller editorialized in reference to the broad spectrum of topics that Ann Landers and Abigail Van Buren addressed,  mostly about their practical yet graceful approach to problem-solving.  But Ann Landers in particular addressed some of the same animal issues that concern us today,  at a time when relatively few mainstream journalists wrote at all about animals,  and good advice about animal care and behavior was much harder to find.

Following are appreciations of Ann Landers by Barbara Kay,  public affairs columnist for The National Post, of Toronto, Canada,  addressing specifically Landers’ concern about pit bull attacks,  which during her lifetime (1918-2002) had just begun to accelerate in frequency at the present exponential rate,  and by ANIMALS 24-7 editor Merritt Clifton,  looking at Landers’ leadership in several other areas of intense interest to our readership.

Foreground: Barbara Kay. Background: illustration from “Good Dog Carl” series.  (See “Good Dog Carl” books should be sold like cigarettes, with warnings,  by Barbara Kay.)

Dangerous dogs & Ann Landers   by Barbara Kay

Ann Landers was my first and arguably most influential journalistic role model.  I discovered her in 1955, when I was a teenager.  I liked her crisp,  dryly humorous voice that radiated moral clarity and common sense in equal measure.

Our culture changed dramatically over the years, but Ann remained faithful to her bedrock principles. She became a laughingstock to counter-cultural elites,  but her column remained in syndication for 56 years,  proof that although social theorists had no use for her allegedly superannuated views,  ordinary people appreciated her good sense and civic-minded values.

Evidence-based opposition

Revisiting Ann’s work these many years later, it comes as no surprise to find that her opinion on dangerous dogs was consistent with the intelligence and objectivity she brought to bear on other issues.

For example, on October 26, 1987, Ann wrote a column on pit bulls that––statistics apart––shows us how little has changed over the last three decades in the battle between evidence-based opposition to dangerous dogs and irrational pit bull love.

Ann began by referring to a letter she had printed months earlier about a child who nearly died from a pit bull attack. She was then “swamped” with similar stories, some of which she printed.

Eppie Lederer as Ann Landers.

Facts from the Washington Post

Ann subsequently heard from “hundreds” of pit bull owners and breeders accusing her of being misinformed and “crazy.” But she also heard from a knowledgeable journalist, Neal Pierce, a writer for the Washington Post Writers Group, who provided her with facts that she laid out for her readers. To wit:

• Pit bulls had inflicted “21 of the nation’s 29 fatal canine attacks since 1983” (i.e. over four years; there were 57 fatal attacks in 2017,  40 by pit bull type dogs);

• Fourteen of the victims were children under 6 years of age;

• In Philadelphia, the pit bull count had soared from a mere 25 to 4,000 in five years.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose. The pit bull advocacy movement today sings from the exact same song sheets as they did in 1987. Ann writes that the dog-owner groups and kennel clubs “argue that pit bulls aren’t the problem.” They say it is “humans who breed and raise the animals improperly.”

(See also 57 dog attack deaths & 645 disfigurements in 2017, led by pit bulls)

“Mark of Cain”

Ann was not impressed, calling such logic “fallacious,” and advancing the obvious truth that however amiable pit bulls can appear,  they “have a mark of Cain in their genetic history.”  Most significantly, no-nonsense Ann cut through the “rights”-based cant that has become the foundational pillar of the pit bull advocacy movement,  writing,  “Dogs aren’t entitled to constitutional protection.  The owner’s right to have a dangerous dog must stop short of his neighbor’s throat.”

Interestingly, Ann ended her column with the words, “There will be no more about pit bulls in this space, but if my early columns were instrumental in calling attention to this continuing nightmare, I’m delighted.”

Did Ann decide it wasn’t worth fielding the hate mail she knew would continue to plague her if she kept on writing about pit bulls? Was her decision influenced by uneasy editors or concerned sponsors getting flak from pit bull activists? We don’t know.  We do know that she did return to the topic of pit bulls at least four times in the next seven years,  always amplifying her previous position,  including updated facts.

When Cleveland Amory (right) asked Ann Landers for help, she quickly responded.
(Beth Clifton collage)

Ann Landers against the “Bunny Bop” by Merritt Clifton

Esther Pauline “Eppie” Lederer and her identical twin sister Pauline Esther,  who became Ann Landers and Dear Abby,   were the daughters of Russian Jewish immigrants,  born and raised  in Sioux City,  Iowa.  Attending Morningside College in Sioux City together in 1936-1939,  they broke into journalism by writing  a gossip column for the college newspaper.

Married at a double wedding on July 2,  1939,  two days before their 21st birthdays,  the two sisters for the next several years abandoned career ambitions to focus on their roles as wives and mothers.

Chicago nurse Ruth Crowley meanwhile wrote an advice column as “Ann Landers” for the Chicago Sun in 1943-1948 as a sideline to another column she wrote on baby care.

After a three-year break,  1948-1951,  Crowley put the column into syndication in 1951.  It became an immediate hit,  but Crowley died at age 48 in 1955.

(Beth Clifton collage)

Pet care

Having majored in journalism and psychology,  Eppie Lederer won a contest to become the new “Ann Landers” by incorporating the advice of outside experts in her responses to readers’ questions.  The staff of the Humane Society of the U.S.,  founded only one year earlier,  in 1954,  were soon among the experts Lederer most often consulted––and were consulted too by her twin sister,  who soon started her successful rival column,  “Dear Abby.”

Most of the animal-related problems Eppie Lederer and her sister dealt with were mundane matters involving pet care,  including whether dogs should sleep on beds with humans,  how to handle chronic barking,  when to euthanize ailing pets,  and defecation issues.  Most of the Lederer sisters’ animal-related advice reflected the conventional wisdom of their time.

But both Lederers promoted dog and cat sterilization long before even most humane societies did,  and were well ahead of their time in recognizing the corrosive effects of rationalizing cruelty to animals on human behavior toward fellow humans.

Both wore fur,  though less often later in life,  but reassured readers that properly balanced vegetarian diets are healthy,  including for children.  Eppie Lederer’s most popular column ever was a meat loaf recipe,  which she invited readers to test on their dogs.  Both sisters just barely tolerated sport hunting,  acceding to the then-prominence of hunting as a pastime with evident distaste for the whole idea.

(Beth Clifton collage)

Stopping the “Bunny Bop”

In 1967 Eppie Lederer,  as Ann Landers,  joined fellow syndicated columnist Cleveland Amory in amplifying a national information campaign against the “Bunny Bop” rabbit killing contest then held annually in Harmony,  North Carolina.

The “Bunny Bop” had outraged Amory from inception in 1946.  American Humane Association president Rutherford T. Phillips had tried to have it banned in 1960.

But,  responding to Phillips that they would not be dissuaded by outsiders and “do-gooders,”  the “Bunny Bop” organizers instead just prohibited the use of firearms to kill rabbits,  restricting participants to using stones,  clubs,  and dogs.

Enrollment soared.  The “Bunny Bop” became much bigger and much more violent than ever before.

Amory,  a social commentator on the Today show from 1954 to 1963,  in 1961 put his TV career on the line with a segment about the “Bunny Bop,”  in which Amory “proposed,  on air and during viewers’ breakfast hour,  the formation of a hunt club where human hunters would be tracked down and killed for sport,  arguing that killing hunters in cold blood would be humane and kind due to their overpopulation,”  Wikipedia summarizes.  “Viewer response was overwhelmingly negative and Amory was quickly reprimanded by NBC President Julian Goodman,”  who fired him two years later for broadcasting a commentary entitled “Science is needlessly cruel to animals.”

Amory went on to found the Fund for Animals in 1968,  which he headed until his death in 1998.  The Fund for Animals was merged into the Humane Society of the U.S. in 2005.

(Beth Clifton photo)

Changed tactics

Ann Landers added her voice to the campaign with a March 13,  1967 column opening,  “Have you ever heard of ‘Bop the Bunny’?”

Explained a probably fictitious letter writer identified as “Charleston, S.C.,”  “Some local people decided there should be more ‘togetherness’ between fathers and sons,  so they organized a hunt game.  Since most of the boys were too young for guns (under 10 years of age) the hunters decided to use rocks and sticks as weapons.  The idea of the game is to make a human chain across the field and let the..

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(Beth Clifton collage)

Going to the root of things is always a good idea if you really intend to change things.
Let’s start with pit bull advocate Anne-Marie Goldwater’s delirious statement:  “We use derogatory words to identify a certain subgroup of dogs which does not form a ‘race.’  Like blacks, Latinos, Arabs… these aren’t races.  Just like there is only one race, the race of human beings. There is only one ‘race’ of dogs.  It’s called dog: canis lupus familiaris.”(1) 
Not so, Ms. Goldwater. The dog is in fact a domesticated subspecies of the wolf, itself divided into more than 450 breeds or variants, easily identified by their morphology (phenotype) and able to predictably produce offspring true to type.  No one has ever seen a couple of registered pit bulls such as the American Staffordshire Terrier produce a litter of poodles. 

(Beth Clifton collage

Breeds in dogs, just like races in humans (2)(3),  are an inescapable reality,  and in dogs this reality is not limited to appearance,  but also concerns behavior.

Genes versus training
People often say: “there are no bad dogs, but only bad masters.”  For example,  Bill Bruce, author of the current canine municipal regulations in the city of Calgary,  said often “We believe that canine aggression is essentially a human problem,  and if we solve the problem at its source,  the canine problem will resolve by itself.” (4)
In other words,  since breeds and behavior are a social construct,  it would be unjust to discriminate against one or another canine. 
But would it really be unjust?  Of course not!  As most honest breeders,  agronomists,  and veterinarians can tell you,  genes play an important role in aggressiveness,  even if the acquired or trained aspect of behavior also matters. (5)  All dogs are not born equal. 

(Beth Clifton collage)

“No bad dogs,  but only bad masters”?
The favorite saying of pro pit bull advocates, copy-pasted from Jean Jacques Rousseau’s preposterous theory of the noble savage,  that “There are no bad dogs, but only bad masters,” is completely untrue.  Pit bull breeders typically select at birth,  or shortly afterward,  the most docile specimens of a litter for company,  and the more aggressive ones for protection.  Others are sold for reproduction to a puppy mill or simply culled.
Does this mean that all pit bull dogs are dangerous?  No.  An undetermined number are not (see below). But since there is presently no verifiably accurate test for effectively separating the safe from those of high risk,  it would be safer to banish them altogether.  These born killers have a very heavy genetic past.  They were made by mating extremely aggressive breeds that were selected for thousands of generations for their gameness,  strength,  overdeveloped predator instinct,  high pain threshold, and impulsiveness.  These factors,  combined with the power of their jaws,  cause extremely serious injuries. 

(Beth Clifton collage)

“Unpredictable & incredibly violent”
Pit bull attacks are by definition unpredictable and incredibly violent. 
The most dangerous pit bulls are those who are trained to be aggressive by mostly ill-reputed individuals, such as drug dealers or gang members or even ordinary persons who like to scare or intimidate others.  Although law prohibits dogfighting,  dogfights still occur,  and dogs are still bred for this purpose.  Only the most aggressive dogs are used. 
Others are sold to breeders who produce inexpensive puppies by the dozens,  without any consideration for their behavioral traits so long as they appear true to type.  Unsuspecting clients end up buying these Jekyll and Hyde dogs without knowing where they come from.
Many of these dogs look quite innocent––until they change without warning into monsters. 

(Beth Clifton collage)

(See Why pit bulls will break your heart,  by Beth Clifton.)

Statistical black hole
In the province of Quebec, according to the findings of the Working Committee on the Supervision of Dangerous Dogs, statistics on dog bites are a real black hole for the following reasons: 
  • Registration of dogs is not required in each of the municipalities of the province.
  • The application of this obligation,  when it exists,  is often uneven and incomplete,  as it is not mandatory to report the breed of the registered animal.
  • Unlike in much of the U.S.,  police officers,  doctors, and veterinarians are not required to report bites unless rabies is suspected.
  • The right of veterinarians to secrecy in the case of an aggressive dog is also a substantial obstacle.
  • To make things worse,  since all dogs are legally equal,  some mass media,  CBC for instance,  for egalitarian reasons no longer name the breeds of canine delinquents involved in a biting incident.

Without knowing the population of each breed,  the number of bites as well as the breed involved,  it is almost impossible to find out precisely which breeds are the most dangerous. This lack of statistics might be good for business,  but it is also a flagrant flight from responsibility as well as a denial of breed reality and the importance of biology in behavior.

The case of Toronto
Fortunately, the situation is quite different in Toronto where the data on dogs is sufficiently large and precise to get a good idea of the scope of the problem (see table below).
It turns out,  all pit bull type dogs,  pure bred and mixes alike,  are the most dangerous.
Is this the reason why pit bulls and other dangerous breeds were successfully banned from Toronto in 2005?  No doubt about it.
Another way of knowing what’s going on is to consult the medical and surgery journals. For the last 40 years or so all serious epidemiological studies – i.e. those that are not made by vets or sponsored by humanitarian societies and pro-pit bull associations  – are unanimous: In North America, the majority of dog bites requiring hospitalization or resulting in death are inflicted by pit bull type dogs. (6) (7) (8) (9) (10) (11) (12) (13) (14) (15).
Pseudoscience is their creed
According to pro pit bull advocates, all their claims on breeds and behavior are based on sound science.  But nothing is further from the truth.  None of their allegations are scientifically documented by credible studies.  Morally abusive authorities are the sole support to these claims.  This is why advocates will viciously attack anyone who questions their sacred beliefs. 
Though pit bulls and their close mixes are only 5.6% of the U.S. dog population,  and a much smaller percentage of dogs in Canada,  pit bulls and related breeds are––as ANIMALS 24-7 has documented for 36 years––responsible for upward of 70% of all fatal and disfiguring dog attacks.  It would therefore be a good thing to fade them out gently from the market. 
Root causes
Knowing all along that regardless of the measures taken, it is impossible to eradicate biting dogs without addressing root causes,  such as false claims about the efficacy of animal-assisted therapy, which are fuelling a historically unprecedented demand for pets;  veterinary bias;  and the outrageous humanization of animals,  to name but a few. 
It is essential to collect valid data on the population of breeds,  the number of attacks,  the severity of the bite injury,  as well as the breeds responsible.  These statistics must be available to the public on demand or posted on a website for all to see.  Under the present circumstances,  refusing to name the breed of a biter,  as some mainstream media are doing,  is outright criminal.

(Beth Clifton..

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