Friday, October 27, 2006

LA Animal Services Changes Black Cat Adoption Policy

Black cats awaiting adoptions from local shelters are in luck this Halloween.

For the first time in over 10 years, LA Animal Services is adopting out black and white cats this month. Animal Services reversed a previous policy in hopes of placing more animals in homes.

Some shelters do not adopt out black or white cats in October, for fear they will be tortured or used as a Halloween decoration or part of a costume.

Each year, LA Animal Services is faced with either holding the cats until after the holiday or euthanizing them. Because there is little documentation of animal tortures and a growing number of cats, Animal Services decided to adopt them out.

This policy shift is consistent with LA’s no-kill goal. Typically, Animal Services rescues over 100 lost and homeless dogs and cats each day and is almost always at capacity.

In the entire history of humane work, no one has ever documented or demonstrated any relationship between adopting out either black or white cats, or cats of any other color, and cats being killed or injured. There are no studies of the matter, and no relevant data.

According to ANIMAL PEOPLE the belief that adopting out black or white cats to "witches" will result in ill consequences for the cat may be traced to three sources:

"1) Ignorance of the actual beliefs and practices of paganism. Witches do not harm their ‘familiars,’ who are supposed to be their eyes and ears in the spirit world. To harm a familiar would be to blind and deafen oneself, regardless of whether one is a ‘white’ witch, a ‘black’ witch, a purple witch, or any other kind of witch.

2) Misunderstanding predator behavior. Alleged sadists and Satanists were sought for purportedly stealing, killing and dismembering cats and dogs in at least nine states as Halloween 1998 approached. The supposed crimes drew sensational media coverage, lent emphasis to humane society warnings against letting pets run at large, and rewards of up to $10,000 were posted in some cases for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the killers.

An accurate description of the suspects, however, in all but a handful of the animal deaths and disappearances, would include either four legs and a tail, or wings, and none would be either werewolves or griffons.

Similar panics have developed each summer since. They coincide with the emergence of young foxes and coyotes from their mothers' dens and with the first hunting by newly fledged raptors. The panics gain momentum approaching Halloween as public attention to witches, ghouls, goblins, and other things that go bump in the night rises toward a crescendo.

The panics virtually stop each year after Halloween distinctly unlike cases involving actual human sadism.

Trained to investigate human-inflicted cruelty, police detectives and humane officers typically have little background in predator behavior. Veterinarians tend to expect --wrongly--that injuries done by coyotes, the most frequent wild predator of pets will resemble those done by domestic dogs.

Forensic evidence is thus misread by sincere people, acting in good faith, who incite witch-hunts at possible expense to professional credibility.

Predators, in contrast to human sadists, are astonishingly quick and efficient. Except in instances when predators take disabled but still living prey back to a den or nest to teach young how to kill their own food, predation victims tend to make little sound, if any, rarely even having time to know what hit them. Predators try to avoid wasting time and energy inflicting unnecessary injuries.

Their teeth and claws usually cut more cleanly than any knife. Predators don't leave much blood behind: that's food. If interrupted in mid-attack, they run or take flight with the parts they most want to eat. If able to eat at their leisure, they consume the richest organs, such as the heart, and leave what they don't want.

Coyotes and foxes typically attack small prey such as cats and rabbits from behind and to one side, with a scissors-like jaw snap to the backbone and midsection that frequently cuts the victim in half. If startled, they tend to flee with the larger back half and whatever internal organs come along, leaving the head and forepaws. These are among the cases most often misread by investigators, who mistake the discovery of the head as an indication of ritualistic crime.

Coyotes have an entirely different attack pattern against prey larger than themselves, such as sheep and deer. Against these animals, they go for the throat and belly. They then consume the viscera first.

Cats, both wild and domestic, tend to leave inedible organs in a neat pile. Cats also have the habit of depositing carcasses, or parts thereof, at the doorsteps of other cats or humans they are courting. When cats kill much smaller animals, such as mice, they consume the whole remains, but when they kill animals of almost their own size, such as rabbits, they may leave behind heads, ears, limbs, and even much of the fur.

Tomcats, especially interlopers in another tom's territory, often kill kittens. Instead of eating them, however, kitten-killing toms sometimes play with the carcasses as they would with a mouse, and then abandon the remains in an obvious place, possibly as a sign to both the mother and the dominant tom.

Coyotes, foxes, and both wild and domestic felines often dispatch prey who survives a first strike with a quick skull-crunching bite to the head. ANIMAL PEOPLE actually resolved several panics over alleged sadists supposedly drilling mysterious parallel holes in the skulls of pets by suggesting that the investigators borrow some skulls of wild predators from a museum, to see how the mystery holes align with incisors.

Any common predator, but especially coyotes and raptors, may be involved in alleged ‘skinned alive’ cases. The usual victims are dogs who--perhaps because parts of their bodies were hidden in tall grass--are mistaken for smaller prey. The predator holds on with teeth and/or claws while the wounded victim runs. The result is a set of sharp, typically straight cuts that investigators often describe as "filets." The editor of ANIMAL PEOPLE once saw a cat pounce and nearly skin a rabbit in such a case, and unable to intervene in time to prevent the incident, euthanized the victim. The attack occurred and ended within less than 30 seconds.

Raptors tend to be involved in cases where viscera are draped over cars, porches, trees, signs, and mailboxes: they take flight with their prey, or with a road kill they find, and parts fall out. They return to retrieve what they lose only if it seems safe to do so.

Birds, especially crows, account for many cases in which eyes, lips, anuses, and female genitals are removed from fallen livestock. Sometimes the animals have been killed and partially butchered by rustlers. Others are victims of coyotes or eagles. The combined effects of predation and scavenging produce ‘mutilations’ which may be attributed to Satanists or visitors from outer space, but except where rustlers are involved, there is rarely anything more sinister going on than natural predators making a living in their normal way.

3) Fan behavior during some of the first World Series games ever played. Early 20th century New York Giants manager John McGraw was notoriously superstitious, so fans (especially gamblers) would sometimes pitch black cats in front of the Giants' dugout to jinx him. In response to this, some early humane societies suspended adopting out black cats during the World Series, which was and is played just before Halloween.

An informal baseball rule was adopted during this time against continuing a game if an animal is on the field. Major League Baseball, Inc., made this rule official in 1984, after then-Yankees outfielder Dave Winfield threw a ball that killed a seagull during a game in Toronto. The rule has multiple purposes, one of them being to keep expensive ballplayers from getting hurt.”


Thursday, October 26, 2006

Halloween Do's and Don'ts

Residents and “Trick-or-Treaters” need to take special safety precautions during Halloween to ensure the holiday is safe and enjoyable for the entire family including companion animals.

Halloween can be a frightening time for many animals. Each Halloween, Animal Services rescues pets with injuries that could have been avoided. The noise, costumes and activity of Halloween can be a threatening and bewildering experience – with unexpected results. Constant intrusions by ‘Trick-or-Treaters’ can make a normally friendly dog frightened or aggressive and cause a complacent house cat to dart out an open door.

LA Animal Services suggests pet guardians remember to take these safety precautions for a safe Halloween:

* Leave Pets at home. Do not take them trick-or-treating.

* Keep all pets indoors – including those that normally live outside. This will help prevent them from escaping and becoming victims of pranks or abuse.

* Keep pets in a secure and quiet room – as far away as possible from Halloween activity.

* Keep children away from animals. Otherwise friendly animals may be frightened and behave unexpectedly.

* Keep candy out of pet’s reach. Candy can be harmful to pets and chocolate is toxic to cats and dogs.

* Have traceable identification on pets at all times. Remember that frightened animals tend to run and may run away from home. Identification/license tags and microchips help reunite owners with their companion animals.

* Keep pets away from decorations. Flames in jack-o-lanterns and candles can quickly singe, burn or set fire to a pet’s fur. Pets can become tangled in hanging decorations like streamers and can choke on some decorations if they chew on them.

* Resist the urge to put your furry friend in a costume. Most pets dislike the confinement of costumes and masks, and flowing capes can cause injuries if the pet gets caught on something.

If your pet becomes lost, begin searching immediately. Visit LA Animal Services’ website: that features photos of all shelter animals. You should also visit your local Animal Care Center – beginning with the nearest one, as often as possible. If a lost animal is brought to an Animal Care Center, Animal Services personnel will call the owner if the animal has a license, microchip or identification. If you love your pet, license your pet!

LA Animal Services rescues and cares for over 40,000 lost and homeless animals annually. This Halloween adopt a lucky dog, cat or rabbit and provide him or her a loving home. Together we can make LA the safest City in the United States for our pets!

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Animal Fair Interview

The following are excerpts from a recent interview with Animal Fair Magazine on the opening of Animal Services new state of the art animal care centers. For more information on Animal Fair Magazine visit them at:

1. What makes these new shelters different from all the other shelters?

Our new shelters are more like botanical gardens than dog pounds. Over 30% of the grounds are landscaped with lush vegetation, flowers, trees, and greenery. There are park benches to relax on while enjoying the animals. There are fountains and works of art to enjoy. There are misters to keep the animals cool when the weather is hot and radiant heating in the kennel floors when the weather gets cold. There are large park like get acquainted areas where Animal Services will host special adoption events with our many partners as well as sponsor dog obedience and agility training. There are community rooms for meetings and educational activities. These shelters are not your father's animal control, they are spacious and beautiful and will serve as pet adoption centers of choice for all Angelinos and surrounding communities.

2. Is this the first step in getting the city to be no kill? What are the other steps?

This is definetely a significant step to achieving no-kill. These new Centers will increase our holding capacity by over 400%, allowing us to hold animals for longer periods of time. But the new shelters are just one step in a very comprehensive strategic no-kill plan. Along with the new shelters we are building spay/neuter clinics designed to handle 20,000 surgeries per year. With six new clinics that represents 120,000 surgeries per year. These surgeries will have a profound impact on the number of unwanted pets being born each year. We call our spay/neuter program The Big Fix because we recognize that spay/neuter is the ultimate "fix" to the vexing problems associated with pet overpopulation.

Along with our shelters and clinics we have a program called New Hope which is a partnership with over 70 local animal welfare organizations that allows these groups to take animals from our euthanasia list at no cost to them. These animals are already spayed or neutered, vaccinated and microchipped. We keep our shelters open 24 hours per day seven days per week for our New Hope Partners. We soon hope to be able to help our partners with the actual transport of the animals.

Animal Services is also initiating Project Safety Net which will coordinate the many resources in LA to help people keep their pets during times when they may feel relinquishment is their only alternative. Often times dog training, behavioral counseling, or legal advice is the only thing between keeping a pet and having to give a pet up. By making these resources more readily available we hope to help more families keep their pets.

Operation FELIX (Feral Education and Love Instead of X-termination) is our Trap/Neuter/Return (TNR) program. This program is currently conducted in partnership with LA's many feral cat organizations but as our spay/neuter clinics come on line we intend to be even more directly involved in humanely helping to reduce LA's feral cat population with this non-lethal methodology.

We hope to soon initiate our TLC program that will help teach "at risk" kids love and compassion for our communities' "at risk" animals. Many of the animals rescued by Animal Services are lost, abused or neglected, and many are in need of foster homes. Many of our kids are in similar situations and are very empathetic to the plight of our animals. This empathy is a building block to help these kids to learn how to more freely express love and compassion. This program can be expanded to include our community's senior citizens and other disenfranchised populations.

3. How are you working to get more pets adopted in LA?

We are very fortunate that one of the nation's foremost ad agencies has agreed to help Animal Services with an ad campaign to promote adoptions. Riester, based in Phoenix, has an LA office and their "cause marketing" genius is helping us to get the word out that Animal Services is daily creating happiness by bringing pets and people together! Riester shares Animal Services' commitment to make LA the nation's first major no-kill city in the United States.

In addition, many celebrities and influential people are helping Animal Services create a 501c3 animal welfare charity called "SALA" which stands for Shelter Animals of LA. SALA is also Spanish for "living room" and is symbolic of the "living room" LA's residents are making in their hearts for our shelter animals. SALA will help raise funding for Animal Services many life saving programs.

We also partner with Humane Rescue Alliance and many other animal welfare organizations all of whom share our vision to end pet euthanasia and help us find loving homes for our lost and homeless pets.

4. Is there anything special about the event that you would like me to include in the article?

I think it is worth mentioning that Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa attended this event to once again voice his wholehearted commitment to ending euthanasia as an acceptable method to reduce pet overpopulation. He was joined by several City Council members and other public officials. To the best of my knowledge he is the only mayor of a major city to take such a courageous and compassionate stand and it is our hope he will inspire mayors and public officials across the United States with his vision!