Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Zanesville, Ohio incident

It's been a week now since the owner of fifty or so exotic pets opened their cages, turning wild, scared and previously improperly cared for animals loose on his property before taking his own life.  While I've been outspoken in my personal life about the events, it's not something I'll go into here.  Quite frankly, since I'm not the sheriff and I didn't have to answer to the people that decide if I have a job next election, I figured it's not really fair for me to Monday morning quarterback any calls that were made that day.  I have personal feelings on the issue, yes, but as far as what should have been done, I just don't think anyone has the right to call that other than the one person who would take the heat for it.

Instead, my issue is with the owner.  Apparently Ohio has some of the weakest laws in the country when it comes to exotic pets.  Complains have come up that there were something like thirty or more complaints over the last few years.  Animals kept in confinement too small, too filthy, and not fed properly.  For a wild animal this must have been torture.  But because laws are so weak, they legally couldn't do a thing as far as seizure.  A very sad thing for the animals left to languish at the hands of a horrible keeper. 

Now that this is in the open everyone is calling for stricter laws for exotics.  And while I definitely think there needs to be laws in place to ensure that exotic pets are in the hands of the people with the knowledge and ability to provide that level of care, I worry that the emotional knee jerk reaction will be laws passed that are overly strict.  Now don't get me wrong.  I do not like the thought of taking animals from the wild and caging them in any situation.  Just keep in mind how many captive born and bred exotics there are in this country.  If we start passing laws so strict that even experienced keepers aren't able to follow the law.............what happens to those animals?  In the vast majority of cases, zoos are full.  They can't take in the hundreds of thousands - possibly millions - of exotics pets that are kept in this country.  So do we start killing off these exotics?  Once captive born and bred they can't be released back into the wild. 

And what about domestic animals?  We kill upwards of four million a year in shelters.  That doesn't include the ones hit by cars, dying of disease, euthanized in vet's offices, killed by other animals, and those that die doing jobs like hunting.  And this doesn't even touch the tip of the ways animals can die.  So if we're going to push for laws for strict exotic pet keeping, why not also push for laws to protect the domestics?  If exotics can't survive when released back into the wild, there's no way domestics can.  And yet we see daily stories of animals abused and neglected (think Patrick the pitbull nearly starved to death), as well as dogs that never see a vet in their life, usually dying of easily treated illnesses after producing a hundred off spring or more, which simply starts the cycle all over again. 

The big fight for exotic pet laws has always been that they're a 'danger to society'.  What about dog and cat attacks?  People die every year from being attacked by dogs and cats.  How many are bitten by a cat and contract a fatal illness?  Latest estimates are that roughly 10,000 people per year are hospitalized for cat and dog bites.  While dog bites are more likely to cause immediate death than a cat bite, cat bites result in 80% of victims developing serious infections and sepsis.  Up to 30% of those that do contract sepsis from the bite die from it.  Given the few number of exotic pets that get loose and attack compared to the huge over population problem we have in this country from dogs and cats, doesn't it make sense that in fact the dogs and cats are the true danger?  So where is the 'protection for the public' from these evil kitties and puppies??

Don't misunderstand me.  I don't see domestics as a threat any more than I see exotics a threat.  The true threat that I see are the inexperienced, uneducated, lazy and irresponsible human owners that allow these situations to take place.  The problem we have in this country is a lack of responsibility.  We've become a country that makes it too easy to blame someone or something else instead of stepping up to the plate ourselves.  That's where the true danger lies.  In every single state in this country you have to take a written and driving test to be license to operate a motor vehicle.  Why?  Because a human behind the wheel that doesn't know how to drive and follow highway safety laws is a danger to society.  Are you seeing the similarity here?  The motor vehicle if left alone will not hurt anyone.  Removed from it's garage and placed in the hands of an irresponsible and uneducated driver however, it's a couple thousand pounds of fast moving danger that could easily result in the death of an innocent person.

This same analogy can be used to debunk the popular breed specific laws that are so popular these days.  In dog psychology, what a canine is starts with 'dog', not breed.  All dogs have the same psychology.  There's not such thing as any breed of dog that was ever bred to be human aggressive.  None.  Some have been bred to be protective of their humans, but not specifically toward other humans.  In other words as long as you are posing no threat to the human, the dog will pose no threat to you.  If however you choose to assault, rob or otherwise endanger the human, the dog is trained to end that threat by attacking you.  So is the dog aggressive?  Not at all; it's simply doing what it was trained to do.  You caused the attack on yourself. 

The common belief that a 'pitbull' is a man eater is just as silly as the years before when people thought the German Shepherd, Rottweiler, Chow Chow, Doberman Pinscher and so many other breeds were aggressive.  These breeds all reached levels of wide spread popularity and were chosen due to their ease of training, intelligence and loyalty to an owner.  Sadly, this makes them ideal candidates for the criminal element as well.  And let's face it, few criminals believe in treating their beloved pitbull properly with training, socialization, vet care and spay / neuter procedures.  The statistics show that in dogs that have bitten there are actually very common threads; dogs left outdoors to either roam freely or be chained their whole lives, most commonly they are male dogs that have not been neutered, and the dogs were never socialized or trained properly.  The common thread, again, is man.  It just happens that the pitbull (which isn't even a true breed but a catch all phrase used to lump dozens of other breeds into a single category) is very popular right now.  So if you assume there are 100 pitbulls in a neighborhood and 12 labs and there are only 2 lab bites and there are 3 pitbull bites, you'd think the pits are more aggressive, right?  But that's not true.  That simply means that a pitbull has a 3% likelihood to bite whereas a lab has a roughly 17% chance of biting.  Now factor in the very high frequency of people saying they were bit by a stray pitbull when in fact it turns out to be another breed.  And when they're labeled pitbulls but that consists of dozens of breeds, you're getting exaggerated bite stats for a single breed.  That would be like saying from now on we'll be including all dogs that are yellow, black or brown and over 45 pounds into the category as lab.  Would that be fair?  But that's what's going on with pitbulls.

The whole point to this, is humans are the common link when it comes to dangers to humans.  We do this to ourselves with our lack of responsibility, whether that be with exotics, domestics or one another.  And now because an irresponsible pet owner (who was also a convicted criminal) has made national news with his behavior, all other exotic pet owners now must sit on the edge of their seat, wondering if laws will be placed making it impossible to keep their well cared for pets, or, even worse, if they'll be outlawed and they'll have someone on their doorstep to seize and kill the pets.  Personally, I'd love to see domestic laws passed as well so that all people that want to have a pet must prove their educated and responsible.  But I guess that violates our personal freedom.  So the animals will continue to suffer.  So sad.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Dulera tortoise, horribly cared for!

I was watching TV late last night and a commercial came on for Dulera, a new asthma medication by Merck.  Usually I don't pay much attention to commercials, but I happened to glance up just in time to see a lady kneeling down by a tortoise.  I immediately thought sulcata, but noticed the shell was very pyramided.  I rewinded it so I could pause the shot and get a good look.  The footage isn't real close up - obviously the eye is supposed to be on the female in the commercial - but even so I'm still convinced this is a sulcata that's in horrific condition.  I've attached the photo yourself so you can decide.

After a couple other sully owners saw the photo and agreed that it appears to be a sulcata that's been terribly cared for, I've decided to write Merck.  I'm sickened that they've paid someone money to use an animal that's being slowly killed in one of the most horrible ways to kill such an amazing species. 

If anyone else is interested in contacting them, here is the information I found to contact their Corporate Responsibility office:

Or by snail mail:

Merck & Co., Inc.
The Office of Corporate Responsibility
WS2A-55 Merck & Co., Inc.
1 Merck Drive P.O. Box 100
Whitehouse Station, NJ 08889 USA

A copy of the letter I'll be sending is below:

Recently while watching television I saw a commercial for a new medication you've released called Dulera.  During the commercial there is a shot of a lady kneeling by a tortoise.  I'd be interested in where you found this tortoise for the commercial and what went into hiring the owner / handler of this tortoise for your commercial.  If I'm correct, that is an African Spur-Thigh Sulcata.  If I'm correct, that tortoise has not been cared for well at all, and is on it's way to an excruciating and long drawn out death.  

A sulcata should have a very smooth shell.  At their largest they get to be over 200 pounds, and any over 100 pounds is extremely common.  They measure on average a couple feet across when full grown.  They are the third largest species of land tortoise on the planet, surpassed only by the Galapagos and the Aldabra tortoises.  Sadly, because this is an 'exotic pet' that's sold at pet stores and reptile shows across this country with no information given to the owners, they are seldom properly cared for.  This results in pyramiding, which this tortoise in your commercial exhibits strongly. 

Pyramiding is a form of metabolic bone disease.  It is not a disease that happens over night.  It's a direct result of years of neglect, improper diet, inadequate sunlight and humidity.  Tortoises that do not survive pyramiding commonly die from renal failure, systemic infection and / or cardiac and / or respiratory problems. 

This species of tortoise is actually very hardy, easy and inexpensive to care for.  Allowing one to get to this condition is a direct result of an owner that didn't bother to do their homework about the species and has been completely neglectful.  The thought that your company paid someone who allowed an animal to suffer this way is appalling.  I implore you to please pull that commercial - or edit out that portion - and look into the people who care for animals you may use in your advertising in the future.  


Veronica Connelly
Proud 'parent' to three adopted, formerly neglected Sulcatas

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The big pen is finally done!

We've wanted to get this area fenced off for so long, but something has always come up and kept us from it.  A few weeks ago I decided to go get all the lumber and boards we'd need and then we'd at least have them waiting when we could find the time.  Last week we put in a small pen between the barn and fenced yard for the dogs.  We figured it would give Bradley a safe place without Panzer around to harass him all day.  It's an area that's too small for him to be in all the time, but at least it gets him some peace and quiet until the two big pens are done.

After the small pen was in John started working on the larger pen for Sherman and Panzer.  In the meantime we were switching them and Bradley back and forth in the smaller pen since it had more grass than the dog's yard does.  Well, it took a few days, but finally the big pen is done.  About 8PM last night we finished the rough building for them sleep in at night.  I'll add a layer of hay bales and a tarp on top of it this weekend to finish it.  It's full of hay inside as well and will keep them warm enough for the next month or so until the temps start to really drop and they have to come into the shop at night.

We went out first thing this morning to find all three of them chomping away.  We've got Bradley in there too since the three of them ate nearly all the grass in the smaller pen for Bradley.  With so much room and grass they don't even notice each other.  Figured if we can keep them together for a week it'll give the other grass in his pen time to grow back so he can go there until the second large pen is put in. 

In all we dug just shy of 100 feet of 2 foot deep trenches and I think it was 20-some post holes, 3 feet deep.  Each was filled with gravel and dirt, as well as the posts and boards.  Thankfully we had an existing concrete block wall that took up another 40 feet or so.  The next large pen will go to the right of this one.  We're hoping that some day we can move Bradley and a friend to the large pen next to Sherm and Panz, and perhaps get a couple smaller species of tortoise - maybe a couple Redfoot or Russians. 

Realized as we were watching them all cruise around the pen, we really should have named Panzer 'Hummer'.  He's forever looking for rocks and things he can crawl over and when he does he reminds me of the Hummer commercials where they show them climbing the rocks in the desert. 

And last, the food they have.  I've noticed in there we have the standard blade grass.  But there's also a grass that's got a single stalk with the blades of grass coming off that.  Bradley prefers that to the other kinds of grasses.  There is also a good bit of wild onion growing in there.  Sherm seems to be the only one that likes it.  The boys pretty much eat around it.  We've got a couple kinds of weeks in there too.  The other weeds they like were eaten before I could even get the camera, but these other two survived.  One kind has a stalk that almost looks like it's got a purple-ish tint above the green leaves.  None of them like this weed.  I noticed a lot of these growing around our potato plants this year.  Think I'm just going to pull them since they don't like them.  The others Sherm likes.  They look almost like little blue-purple flowers.  And something that looks like mini wild roses.  They don't like those at all either, so I'll yank them out!  

 The weird grass - does anyone know what kind that (-v-) is?
 Wild onions.  They are all over in this part of the yard.  Sherm loves them!
 The wild rose looking stuff.  They don't like it, so it's being dug up.
 The weird purple flowering weeds.  They covered the garden around the potato plants this year too.
 The pretty weeds.  Sherm likes them and I think they're pretty, so they'll stay.  There isn't much of it anyway.