Fairlea Farm: Articles
Last updated April 20, 2010
Articles are by Bonnie Chandler, except where otherwise noted.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
What Pets Are For 2007 on the NAIA website.
Thinking Aloud: Proposed Legislation Endangers the Right to Own Animals, Harvard Post, 4/16/04
Do You Really Want To Be Your Pet's "Guardian"? 2005, also on NAIA website here.
Is Farming Doomed? 2009 on the NAIA website.
As I See It: Debarking Bill Based on Lies Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA), 4/20/10
Consider This: Debarking Bill Is a Lie Harvard Press, 4/2/10
First Person Singular: Debark Bill Is Not a No-Brainer Harvard Post, 3/26/10
Debarking Bill Not What It Seems Harvard Press 2/13/09
Greyhound Ballot Question Not What It Seems Harvard Press, Harvard Post, Harvard Hillside 10/13/08
The Future of Home-Raised Puppies and Kittens Is at Risk! 2006
Take Action Now: Please Help Stop the USDA from Taking Away Our Livestock and Our Pets 2006
Big Brother Down on the Farm: A Look at NAIS, Part I Harvard Post 5/18/07, Bolton Common 5/25/07
Big Brother Down on the Farm: A Look at NAIS, Part II Harvard Post 5/25/07, Bolton Common 6/1/07
Local Farmer States Opposition to NAIS Program Harvard Post 7/26/07 by Lynda King
Harvard Producers Grow for Satisfaction, Sustenance Harvard Press 7/20/08 by Stephen Hardy
Judy Hilton, Wildlife Rehabilitator Bolton Common, April, 1999
Thinking Aloud: Proposed Legislation Endangers the Right to Own Animals
by Bonnie Chandler, copyright, 2004
This article appeared in the Harvard Post on April 16, 2004.
The next time you look fondly at your pet dog or cat - or horse, fish, goat or gerbil - consider this: In a few years they may all be extinct.
Why? Because an extremist fringe group is launching an all-out attack on the norms of our society.
No, I am not talking about fanatical offshoots of Islam. I am talking about the so-called animal rights movement. Animal rights advocates are trying to force on us their political agenda - no animal use or ownership, no matter how humanely treated. They want us all to be vegetarians and live sterile lives cut off from other species. They intend to force this way of life on us through false propaganda, manipulation of the climate of "political correctness," and coercive legislation that chips away, bit by bit, at our right to own animals until that right no longer exists.
These fanatics are pursuing goals that the vast majority of the public would view with horror if they were honestly portrayed in the press. Nevertheless, the liberal press has been humoring them, and the general public seems inclined to laugh them off as harmless lunatics. Meanwhile, these harmless lunatics are making serious legal inroads into citizens' rights, and very few people are even noticing. When the public finally wakes up to what is happening, it may be too late. Our rights to own animals, eat meat, and enjoy refreshing interaction with a non-human point of view may be nearly gone.
The most recent attempt is a proposal in our own state of Massachusetts to require special licenses for people who breed a few pets privately in their homes. HB 4537 would require that state officials inspect the premises and ensure that they conform to regulations for commercial pet businesses - an impossibility. These regulations always specify kennel facilities with amenities that don't come with normal houses, such as non-porous surfaces and separate kitchens for animal and human food preparation. In addition, HB 4537 is written so ambiguously that it could be construed to apply to anyone who happens to own unneutered animals of any species, including farm animals, whether they are bred or not.
With Massachusetts in such a severe fiscal crisis that it can't even pay for school expenses it already promised us, why take on unnecessary new obligations?
And, make no mistake, it would be a huge expense. Communities that have tried breeder licensing or mandatory neutering ordinances have found that the result was more abandoned animals in shelters, more unlicensed dogs, and fewer dogs getting rabies vaccinations (because owners can be tracked down through their vets). Furthermore, state authorities always find that the new rules don't have the effects they were promised: They make very little difference for large-scale commercial breeders because they were already subject to federal inspection, licencing, and regulations. Instead, they eliminate high-quality, smaller, in-home breeders by making them also subject to commercial rules, basically putting them out of business because of the expense and the impossibility of making a home compliant with commercial building regulations.
What's more, Massachusetts now has a shortage of available pets, despite the propaganda to the contrary that you may have heard. Where are our pets to come from, if we can't breed them ourselves? Yup, you guessed it - more pet shops with commercially bred puppies (which the animal rights fanatics have dubbed "puppy mills") from Kansas and more foreign imports in the shelters.
What, you didn't know about that? Many New England shelters have been profiting from the shortage by bringing in and selling thousands of feral stray animals from other states, as well as from Puerto Rico, the Caribbean, and foreign countries. These imports are totally unregulated and put us all at risk for dangerous new diseases and parasites from undeveloped parts of the world.
The groups backing this kind of legislation include the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), Animal Liberation Front (ALF), Friends of Animals, FARM, and hundreds of similar organizations. They have even co-opted formerly mainstream institutions like the ASPCA and the American Humane Association by getting majorities on their boards and using those institutions as mouthpieces for the movement.
Their leaders say things like this: "One day we would like an end to pet shops and breeding animals. [Dogs] would pursue their natural lives in the wild." (Ingrid Newkirk of PETA, Chicago Daily Herald, March 1, 1990) "Human care (of animals) is simply sentimental, sympathetic patronage." (Dr. Michael W. Fox of HSUS, in a 1988 Newsweek interview) "It is time we demand an end to the misguided and abusive concept of animal ownership." (Elliot Katz of In Defense of Animals, In Defense of Animals, Spring 1997)
The general public thinks these organizations are "helping" animals because they have carefully misled the public into thinking so. They fill their coffers with donations from the very people whose pets they plan to take away from them. If more people understood what is really going on and how their well-meaning donations are being used to further a political agenda they oppose, they would be furious.
In spite of what they try to imply, these organizations run no shelters and have very little experience with real-life animals. The problem is that neither does our increasingly urban population, which happily swallows a whole array of false and misleading statements. Few people nowadays grew up on farms or have daily dealings with livestock or wildlife; most have an unrealistically rosy view of what the "natural" state of animals really is.
The same groups that started a few decades ago by throwing paint on people who wear fur and bombing research laboratories are now promoting breeding restrictions and mandatory neutering laws as solutions to nonexistent problems - "pet overpopulation" and "puppy mill abuse." They run campaigns to promote laws against bear hunting, horse slaughter, treatment of circus elephants - anything they can latch onto. Their emotional and distorted campaigns make it difficult to distinguish between rational laws and those that trade on compassion, fear, guilt, or political agendas. They write laws that look reasonable to the average citizen, but those familiar with the realities of animal husbandry can see the laws would not do what their sponsors say they would do. In addition, the laws are ambiguous and vulnerable to being interpreted many ways and administered drastically and unreasonably. The laws are not meant to help animals - they are intended to cause problems because the animal rights lobbyists want any excuse to take all our animals away from us. Forever.
Look at the trouble laws against trapping beavers have caused here in town, for instance. Who would have thought it ten years ago? The laws looked innocent enough at first.
Many animal-rights-sponsored bills have already become law. Legislators are afraid to vote against them because they think they will be labeled as "against" pets. They also think that animal issues are unimportant compared to the really serious issues facing the country and that it doesn't matter if they throw a few sops to the noisy agitators. We have to let them know that they are wrong. Their votes could change our social norms and let Big Brother intrude into our lives in a major way.
The good news is that Bolton and Harvard's representatives, Pat Walrath and James Eldridge, are very responsive and may have stopped the current breeder-licensing bill. For the present. But it has seldom been more obvious that Thomas Jefferson was right about "the price of freedom" being "eternal vigilance."
The current bill may not pass, but the next one is just around the corner. Are we going to let them get away with it?
What Pets Are For
by Bonnie Chandler, copyright 2007
This article was posted on the NAIA website in 2007. It doesn't seem to be there any more, so I have reproduced it here.
The truth first occurred to me a few years ago.
My children were still young, and I was busy with many activities, theirs and mine, fetching children back and forth and keeping track of a complicated schedule. One day, totally overwhelmed, I sank into a livingroom chair and abandoned myself to feeling frazzled and angry at having completely forgotten a commitment – it might have been a children’s birthday party or a dog club meeting; I have been known to forget both, and other things as well.
As I sat, all but grinding my teeth, out of the corner of my eye I suddenly noticed my cat. She had entered the room and was walking very slowly and gracefully across my line of vision, each foot placed with great care and deliberation. Reaching a small spot of sunlight on the floor, she sat down with her back to me and slowly, elegantly raised one hind leg to give it a single lick. Every movement was a thing of beauty. Then she sat back up, outlined in the ray of sunlight shimmering with dust motes. A loud purring filled the air.
I suddenly realized that while I had been watching her, my muscles had relaxed, my heartbeat had slowed down, and my anger was almost gone. I should be enjoying every moment like that, I told myself, instead of missing most of the joy in life worrying too much about things that, in the long run, really didn’t matter that much.
At that moment, I noticed that, although she seemed oblivious to me, she had one ear cocked back in my direction – and that was when it came to me.
She was doing it on purpose.
She was trying to calm me down by showing me what really mattered. That was her self-appointed task, and she knew exactly how to do it.
Once my eyes were opened, I started noticing that, except when the cat was hurrying to be fed or playing, she almost always moved with the same slow deliberation, enjoying every movement, and it always made me feel good just to watch her. And any time I was in a bad mood, she would appear, moving even more slowly and gracefully than usual, as if to emphasize the point.
Looking around, I saw that my dogs do the same thing, in their way. They throw themselves with such enthusiasm into everything we do together that it increases my enjoyment and distracts me from other concerns. In quieter moods, they snuggle against me and exude sheer happiness and comfort. At all times, their very presence reminds me that what really matters is enjoying whatever we are doing at the moment.
Later, when I acquired farm animals, I found that they, too, knew the score. I often linger in the barn long after the chores are done, absorbing the atmosphere of peace that accompanies the sound of animals munching hay. Sheep grazing across a green hillside are irresistible. I can hardly tear myself away from watching a mother hen clucking and fluffing herself out while cheeping chicks churn underneath, their eyes and beaks appearing and disappearing between her feathers, until everyone settles down to sleep. Hurrying to finish feeding on a busy day, I would look at my horse and long for a nice, companionable ride in the woods; sometimes I would make a silent promise – “Later!” – but sometimes I would let her influence me into deciding to put off my other business and take that ride, after all.
One of my goats is especially conscientious about helping me. Goats are wonderful animals, smart, interested in everything, easy to train and generally well behaved. But they are also attuned to their owners and sometimes take a delight in “getting their goat.” It always seems that the day I am in a hurry is when they suddenly develop a perverse wish to be in the wrong places, or pretend to go where they should but, with their head already in the doorway, screech to a halt and dash off sideways in a different direction. As I get more and more exasperated, invariably Heidi, the herd queen, comes to my side, looks up into my face with a searching expression, leans gently against my side, and simply exudes calmness and support. I stop to pat and thank her, and everything always goes better after that.
It is easy to let the day-to-day surface cares of our lives distract us from what really matters. Even though we often don’t realize what is missing, the animals do, and they are willing – nay, eager – to supply it. Yes, they give us companionship, they give us someone to love and someone who loves us back. They give us refreshing interaction with a non-human point of view. But they also give us something even more important, something we often don’t even realize that we need. That is why people are so attracted to animals, why we have this age-old custom of keeping “pets.”
The purpose of pets is to show us how to live.
Do You Really Want To Be Your Pet's "Guardian"?
by Bonnie Chandler, copyright 2006, also on
Some states and towns are enacting legislation to change the term for animal "owner" or pet "owner" to "guardian." Sponsors, which are usually animal rights groups, say this is a harmless change that will encourage pet owners to take better care of their animals. Is this a good idea? In fact, it is a very bad one, and here are ten reasons why:
1) The term "guardian" already has an established, legal meaning in court, and any new use for animals would not be free to establish its own meaning. It would be applied to animals according to the already existing meaning.
2) That existing meaning applies to non-parental guardians of children, or adults who have been classified as not responsible for themselves. Guardians are merely temporary caretakers whose ownership can be revoked at any time. Court-appointed inspectors must oversee all their decisions. Current laws require guardians to manage and control the child and its estate using state-determined standards of care and diligence. The state can tell a guardian how to take care of the child and can also take it away from a guardian who the state decides has not performed his duties according to its wishes. Other criteria for removing guardians are: if the guardian is convicted of a felony or if the state determines (according to its own rules) that the guardian refuses to or is incapable of performing his duties, or has a conflict of interest that poses a risk that he will not faithfully perform his duties. Guardians can also be sued in court to punish them for the manner in which they have taken care of their responsibilities.
Thus, owners would
3) Not be free to take care of their animals in the manner they choose (including decisions about housing, feeding, training, breeding, euthanasia, spaying or neutering);
4) Have to accept supervision, including inspection visits (probably unannounced, thus violating the Fourth Amendment freedom from warrantless search and seizure, generally construed as privacy protection);
5) Be at risk of having their animals taken away from them without legal recourse or just compensation (violating the Fifth Amendment);
6) Face frivolous lawsuits from animal rights groups suing pet owners supposedly on behalf of their pets, thus harassing the owners and overburdening the courts with frivolous litigation. The consequences to the owners could even include prison.
7) The process for setting up care rules would most likely be controlled by animal rights groups that currently have the ear of our legislators but do not have as much knowledge about real-life animals as many animal owners do, nor do they have the best interests of animals in mind. Their sole interest is in making animal ownership as difficult as possible.
8) Also, veterinarians would not be free to advise owners using scientifically determined medical knowledge, but would be subject to outside dictation about what is allowable.
9) Animal rights groups are quite aware of these consequences to using the term "guardian" - that is exactly why they want such laws. They want to be able to dictate care (including veterinary care), take animals away, sue animal owners, and, in short, make animal ownership so uncertain, unpleasant, expensive, and legally dangerous that people will avoid animal ownership altogether. The "guardian" term is just another of the animal rights movement's many sneaky ploys aimed at taking animals away from us step by step.
10) In short, guardianship basically leaves animal owners with full responsibility for the care, financial support, and damage liability of their animals, but removes all their rights to make decisions for their animals.
The idea may sound appealing to many pet owners who already think of their pets as family members, rather than mere possessions. However, a vocabulary-dictating law would not change people's feelings about their animals. What guardianship would actually do is allow the state to tell owners what they could and could not do with and for their animals. It would also take us in the direction of million-dollar lawsuits over pets, like the ones we now face among humans. It would lead to precipitous increases in the cost of veterinary services because of malpractice liability and insurance. In human medicine, the big cost isn't just the malpractice insurance, but all the rules about treatment and medical protocol that insurance companies set; this would make animal ownership much more expensive - eventually, too expensive for any but the very wealthy.
Next to a total breeding ban, guardianship is the worst legislative action that could befall animal owners. It has long-term legal implications that, while they may seem insignificant on the surface, represent a big step toward the animal rights goal of "no pets."
Take Action Now: Please Help Stop the USDA from Taking Away Our Livestock and Our Pets
by Bonnie Chandler, copyright 2006
Update: In November, 2006, the USDA announced that it would not make NAIS "mandatory at the national level," but it is continuing to push state-based mandatory programs, as well as trying to add it to mandatory livestock disease control regulations.
The USDA is setting up a National Animal Identification System, "NAIS." Everyone who owns even one farm animal (including chickens and farmed fish!) must:
NAIS is being implemented by a government agency, egged on by agribusiness exporters and microchip manufacturers who will benefit financially, BUT WITH NO VOTE FROM CONGRESS. Two bills in Congress were introduced to solve this little oversight. (Tell your legislators to OPPOSE HR.1254 and S.2002.) In the meantime, the USDA is bypassing the need for enabling legislation by giving the states money to start their own individual programs.
- register their farm or "premises" with the government, including GPS location trackable by satellite
- identify each animal with an electronic tag or microchip, type determined by a government committee, paid for by the owner (but not trackable by satellite until the technology becomes economically feasible)
- inform the database (run by a private organization, not the government) within 24 hours of every movement of any animal onto or off your premises
- agree to unanounced premise visits by government inspectors
- pay annual registration fees to the government and transaction fees to the database
- was to become mandatory January, 2008, though that deadline has been delayed
- penalties for disobeying include $1000/day fines and jail time
- veterinarians and feed dealers must report "sightings" (i.e., become snitches)
- currently limited to farm animals, but after they are enrolled, there are plans to expand to housepets, even the smallest (hamsters, tropical fish)
NAIS constitutes surveillance of private citizens. It will make raising one's own meat, milk, and eggs prohibitively complicated and expensive. It will violate the religious freedom of Amish communities and similar groups. It will eliminate the safest and healthiest form of food - locally produced by small, non-factory farmers whose cleanliness and healthy, happy animals the buyers can see for themselves.
It will affect related businesses - all Americans will pay more for Meat, Pet and Livestock Feed, Veterinary Treatment, and Taxes (it will cost a lot to run this boondoggle).
It will regulate out of existence livestock exhibits at local, county and state fairs - children's activities such as 4-H and Future Farmers of America - animal shows that help farmers and pet owners improve their animals through breeding.
Read about it at www.usda.gov/nais and www.nonais.org and sign the STOP NAIS petition at http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/369063795. Write the USDA, your state Ag. Dept., your Farm Bureau, your Legislators, both at the state and national level. Tell your friends, write letters to the editors of local newspapers!
The Future of Home-Raised Puppies and Kittens Is at Risk!
by Bonnie Chandler, copyright 2006
Update, Jan., 2007: This legislation died at the end of 2006. A similar bill called "PUPS" has now been filed (Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety Act, S. 3424, H.R. 5434) and is being pushed by the usual radical animal rights vegan lobbyists: HSUS, PETA, etc.
The Pet Animal Welfare Statute, or "PAWS" (Senate 1139, House 2669) is being promoted by radical animal rights groups such as the Humane Society of the US (HSUS) and PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). They say PAWS will "stop puppy mills" (the animal-rights derogatory term for commercial kennels) and "help pets."
NOTHING COULD BE FARTHER FROM THE TRUTH!
Because the animal rights groups' true agenda is to prohibit animals and meat-eating in our society, they are deliberately misleading the public and our legislators.
What PAWS actually does is federalize a hobby by treating most small home breeders and rescuers of cats and dogs like commercial kennels (called "puppy mills" by animal rights' fanatics, though very few of them actually fit the propagandized description). PAWS will require home breeders and rescuers, whether or not they make a profit, to get the same license under the USDA's Animal Welfare Act that "puppy mills" already must have. PAWS will force home breeders to endure the same unannounced inspections and comply with the same excessive, convoluted, and counterproductive regulations that "puppy mills" already have to comply with.
Among other things, the regulations will require breeders and rescuers to build expensive, sterile kennel buildings and keep all their animals there, instead of in their homes. Also, by defining licensees as "commercial," it will eliminate breeders and rescuers living in residential zoning, which almost always prohibits commercial activity. Thus there will be no more "home-raised" dogs and cats, the best and healthiest type of pet.
PAWS also forces anyone who buys or sells (with or without profit) certain amounts of other small pets to get the same license.
Since the vast majority of pets (at least 85 percent of purebred dogs and 99 percent of purebred cats) are now home-raised, PAWS will
PAWS will NOT help pets, NOT stop puppy mills - it WILL ensure that the only choices left for consumers are commercially-bred pets or "puppy moonshine."
- create a shortage of purebred pets - at least until commercial kennels increase production, and pet shops increase importations, and a black market of smugglers and illegal breeders arises;
- make purebred pets much more expensive;
- eliminate the best and healthiest source of pets, the home breeder who does not breed for profit.
Write and call your legislators. Tell everyone you know!
Judy Hilton, Wildlife Rehabilitator
by Bonnie Chandler, copyright, 1999.
This article appeared in the Bolton Common in April, 1999.
Judy Hilton rescues orphans. But her orphans are not from Kosovo or Ruanda; they come from local back yards, woods, and roadsides. Instead of sad, appealing eyes and hollow cheeks, they have whiskered noses and fur, or sharp beaks and feathers. But the appeal is there, all the same.
Hilton is a state-certified wildlife rehabilitator, and this is her busiest time of the year -- what she calls "baby bird season." People find baby birds on the ground and think they need help, says Hilton. They think they would make cute pets. She said people have many misconceptions and no idea of what the animals really need.
"I really want to educate people about what to do when they find wildlife," explains Hilton. "I want to get the message out in the spring and educate the kids."
As she talks, her hands are busy with a tiny squirrel, wrapped in a towell and eagerly sucking from a miniature bottle of formula. The small basement room in her house at 80 Berlin Road rustles with a variety of sounds from cages ranged on tables around the walls. Baby rabbits hop around their cage; a half-grown pigeon flutters its wings and produces an endless series of piercing chirps; two young squirrels wrestle under a baby blanket, while a tiny bunny and a young raccoon sleep peacefully on blankets. An unseen goldfinch rustles inside its box, occasionally voicing complaints. Through the window can be seen outside cages for animals which have graduated from the nest and are almost ready for release.
The room is dominated by the solemn gaze of Hilton's newest rescuee, a three-week-old Great Horned Owl. It sits silently in a bowl of leaves, a fluffy, greyish-white lump with ridiculously huge feet, swiveling only its head to gaze in astonished wonder at every movement in the room. It was found on the ground after a severe windstorm, probably blown out of its nest. Since crows were attacking it and no parents were in sight, the person who found it brought it to Hilton instead of leaving it alone (usually the better choice). Hilton is not sure whether it is a male or a female, because owls are difficult to tell apart at that age.
The squirrel has finished its milk now; Hilton turns it over and proceeds to wipe under its tail with a Q-tip dipped in water. People, she says, have romantic ideas about what taking care of infant wildlife is like.
"You have to do everything for them."
According to Hilton, animals have to be cleaned and fed much more often than people think. Young songbirds, for example, have to be fed every twenty minutes, sunup to sundown; although other birds and mammals are not quite so demanding, it is still a full-time job, incompatible with most people's lifestyles.
Another little-known fact is that it is against the law to keep any birds except pigeons, starlings, and English sparrows without a license; the same goes for wild mammals, except for red squirrels. It is also illegal to carry them across state lines or the U.S. border. Anyone who finds injured or orphan wildlife must take it to a shelter or a licensed wildlife rehabilitator such as Hilton.
Eventual release is the aim of all wildlife rehabilitation. Contrary to popular belief, says Hilton, "Wild animals do not make good pets. They have that wildness in them, and it never goes away." Anyway, she adds, it's best to "leave nature alone. Someday we won't have these animals. Robins will be extinct some day... So much building is going on, and people complain that animals come in their yards, but -- excuse me! -- they were here first!" She tells people, she says, that if they want a cute, fuzzy animal like a mink or weasel, they should get a ferret. And a domestic rabbit makes a much better pet than a wild one.
Hilton reels off a list of do's and don'ts for orphan wildlife:
"If I had my way, every cat would be an indoor cat," Hilton declares.
- First, make sure the animal, whether bird or mammal, has truly been abandoned. Generally the mother is nearby waiting for you to leave, or off gathering food. The only exception is some songbird species where both parents raise the young together; if the mother dies, the father will continue to feed the babies for another two days, but then often gives up the task. "Ninety-nine percent of the time, mothers will not abandon the babies. The only time they abandon them is if they are dead," says Hilton.
- There is no truth to the old wives’ tale that wild animals will reject their babies once they have been handled by humans. If you find a baby bird on the ground, put it back in its own nest, if possible. Another nest full of the same species will do, also, as birds have such a poor sense of smell that they will accept and feed any baby that makes the right call. The other young birds should be about the same age, however, or the bigger ones will take all the food. Mammals are more discriminating, but will always take their own
- If a nest is not available, withdraw and watch from a distance to see if the mother comes back. If it is in your back yard, retire to the house and look out the window with binoculars. Keep your cats and dogs inside until baby birds are gone. Birds often end up on the ground when they are learning to fly, but within 24 hours they will usually have flown away.
- If the animal is truly abandoned and doesn't seem aggressive, call a wildlife rehabilitator such as Hilton, who will either take on the animal herself or, if her facilities are full, help you find another licensed rehabilitator.
- If it seems safe to handle it, WEAR GLOVES and put it in a box, such as a shoebox, with air holes and a nonraveling material or leaves and grass to stand on. Floundering around in a slippery box with no footing will stress the already weakened animal or bird. Never put a wild bird of any age in a birdcage, as it will injure itself against the bars.
- Handle it as little as possible, and don't let others handle it.
- Warm it up if it is cold, preferably by setting the box on a heating pad set on low. A cold baby should never be fed until it is thoroughly warmed.
- If it needs medical treatment, get it to the Hudson Animal Hospital or Tufts' wildlife clinic in Grafton.
- Don't give it anything to eat or drink before bringing it to the wildlife rehabilitator, because each species has different, very specific requirements. Hilton orders special formulas from catalogs, and gets any medications needed from Tufts in Grafton.
- If the animal seems aggressive, call the local animal control officer.
- In most cases, however, it is best to simply leave the animal alone. Its own mother can give it better care than even the most careful human. People should concentrate on improving the environment for wild animals in general, says Hilton. Preventive measures individuals can take include capping chimneys and patching holes in attics so animals can't get in, and not cutting trees down during the top baby-rearing months (for birds, March and April, with another peak during July and August, because some birds will rear two or three clutches a year). Cats should wear a bell, or, even better, be kept indoors.
If people followed these rules, says Hilton, "it would make my job a lot easier." She cited the recent case of a coyote puppy she took care of. Because 13 people (neighbors, their children, friends) had handled it, she had the sad job of keeping it alive over the weekend so that it could be tested for rabies the next working day at the lab. There is still only one way to test for rabies: Euthanize the animal and dissect the brain. The test, like all the others Hilton has been involved with over the years, came out negative.
"I tell people, 'You put this animal to death by not wearing gloves,'" Hilton sighs. Because rabies can take four to six months to show up, Hilton herself gets annual rabies vaccinations, as well as an antibody-titer check every six months. She always takes thorough precautions -- gloves, long-sleeved shirts, treating animals for parasites, washing her hands frequently -- and only once has she had any trouble, an itchy rash that she may have gotten from a fox cub. But she's still not completely sure it didn't come from a human source.
The goldfinch hiding in its box across the room is another sad case. According to Hilton, the people who found it kept it for four days before doing anything about its broken wing. By then, the damage was irreparable. The bird can never be released and will have to live out its life in a wildlife center.
Other problems can be caused by "imprinting," or the animal's tendency to identify with whoever raises it. Imprinting starts as soon as a bird can see, or in the case of a mammal, through the sense of smell, even before its eyes open. Hilton's animals get as little human contact as possible, "no petting, no coddling." She tries to raise them with others of their kind; if necessary, she consults her network of rehabilitators to find someone with other animals of similar ages and species. Otherwise they may never learn to get along with their own kind or live a normal life.
The lone baby raccoon, says Hilton, will be leaving soon to stay with someone who specializes in raccoons, one of the most exacting species to deal with because they stay with their mothers until they are at least five months old and have to be painstakingly taught how to live in the wild. However, most nonpredatory animals can be released at one or two months and seem instinctively to know how to adjust.
As for the owlet, Hilton has found it a foster family of unreleaseable Great Horned Owls living with a wildlife specialist in Conway, Massachusetts. Owls, she says, have a particular problem with imprinting on humans; they sometimes suffer an odd reversal as adults and become aggressive, attacking every human they see.
Hilton has been doing wildlife rehabilitation for ten years. It all started when her son brought home five baby squirrels. "I always loved animals," says Hilton. Her experience as an EMT (and as a nurse?) also proved useful. Now it is a full-time job -- but without pay. Last year she took care of over 340 animals and spent $2500 out of her own pocket, although she transferred 130 of the animals to other rehabilitators. Her husband helps by building cages, but isn't knowledgeable about taking care of the animals. In order to leave home, she often has to find another rehabilitator in the area to babysit her charges. She recently took a day off to participate in the taping of Animal Planet on television, although she wasn't sure when the show would be aired.
At present Hilton is the only licensed Bolton resident, but there are others in nearby towns.
Hilton is also eager to help others join her profession. Anyone interested in becoming a wildlife rehabilitator is welcome to call her, and she would be happy to help them prepare for the licensing test, she says. But her main focus is the animals.
"I tell people, always do what's best for the animal. I'd love to keep this little owlet, but it wouldn't be good for it." She planned to take the bright-eyed creature to its new foster parents at the beginning of the week.
Question 3...Not What It Seems
by Bonnie Chandler, copyright 2008
This letter to the editor appeared in the Harvard Press, the Harvard Post, and the Harvard Hillside around 10/31/08.
The greyhound ballot initiative is not what it seems. It is not a straightforward, be-kind-to-animals type of law. Though there were some problems in the past, the greyhound racing industry has worked hard to completely resolve them. After all, there are many faster and easier ways to make money; the people in greyhound racing have chosen this venue because they love animals, love spending time with them, and love watching them enjoy themselves. Greyhounds are crazy about racing—and if they aren’t, they don’t do well and are found other homes. Racetracks even hold reunion days for former racers so they can do what they love again.
Ballot Question 3 was written by animal rights groups, which deliberately hide their agenda (to eliminate all animal use and create a vegan society) behind proposals that sound superficially humane, to fool those who do not have thorough knowledge of how animal husbandry really works. The animal rights movement’s goal is to legislate our animals away from us in small, incremental steps before we notice what is happening. This is one of the steps.
As usual, the animal rights groups have relied on myth and misinformation to create concern about racing greyhounds. But here are the facts:
To maximize their chances of winning, while they are at the track greyhounds are housed in heated and air-conditioned facilities in giant oversized crates (size prescribed by law), but spend little daytime in them, as they are taken out to exercise areas to run and play with other greyhounds at least six times a day to keep them fit for racing. The injury rate in Massachusetts is very low, totaling 714 over the past six years, most extremely minor, out of 465,176 races—a rate of .0015 per race. This is a fraction of the injury rate in any human sport - professional, school, or recreational. There has been no documented case of greyhound mistreatment at a Massachusetts facility since 1935. And homes are found for 100 percent of retired greyhounds.
I urge residents to vote against ballot Question 3—and strike a blow for animal welfare, against animal rights.
Proposed Bill Not What It Seems
by Bonnie Chandler, copyright 2009
This letter to the editor appeared in the Harvard Press, the Harvard Post, and the Harvard Hillside around 2/13/09.
A new bill in our state legislature would harm pets if passed. Docket 653, “to Prohibit Dog and Cat Devocalization,” is not what it seems. It is not a be-kind-to-animals law, but part of a nationally coordinated campaign by out-of-state animal rights organizations that don’t believe people should own pets at all.
Most of what is being said in the media campaign is not true. Cats are never devocalized. The purpose of debarking—more accurately, “bark softening”—is as a last resort to save dogs’ lives. It means grandma and grandpa can keep their dog in senior housing. It means a beloved family pet is not killed or abandoned in a shelter because the new neighbor hates dogs and constantly calls Animal Control with false complaints. It means dogs can continue to live in our ever-more-restrictive society.
I have met hundreds of debarked dogs and have owned several myself, and the sound is not ugly, nor have I heard a single instance of the surgical complications being publicized.
Bark softening does not silence a dog, remove its vocal cords, or create psychological harm. It is done under anesthesia by a vet (anything else is already illegal and prosecutable), through the mouth, without stitches, takes only a minute, and merely makes a nick in the vocal folds. It is minor surgery, like a biopsy. Dogs don’t seem to care; indeed, many who have spent most of their lives being punished for their natural behavior stop being punished and are much happier.
Bark softening is not a mere convenience. Many dogs, especially small, high-energy breeds (shelties, terriers, toys), cannot be trained not to bark even by a professional, and the average pet owner hasn’t a chance. If we’re criticizing convenience, why allow neutering and spaying—major invasive surgery with serious side effects—when all owners need to do is keep their dogs home once or twice a year while they are in season?
This bill uses emotion and ignorance to influence voters, because debarking is so rare that few people, and even few vets, know about it.
Which is better: a happy dog who gets to stay home, or an increase in the shelter kill rate? Which do you really think a dog would prefer: being quieter or being dead?
First Person Singular: Debark Bill Is Not a No-Brainer
by Bonnie Chandler, copyright 2010
This article appeared in the Harvard Post on 3/26/10 at this link.
A controversial bill being considered in the state Senate would outlaw dog and cat “devocalization.” Many Massachusetts legislators think H.344, is a “no brainer.” They are wrong.
Devocalization, also called “debarking” or “bark softening,” is being sold to the public as a painful and unnecessary operation with dangerous side effects that deprives pets of their “voice” and is commonly used by owners who are too lazy to train their dogs. Wrong on all counts.
The most misunderstood feature of bark softening is this: Pet owners do not want to debark their dogs; it is their neighbors who make them do it.
The problem is that the operation is, in fact, so rare that very few people, including very few veterinarians, have enough experience with it to recognize false information. And our state legislature, its schedule overwhelmed with bills on far more important subjects than regulating esoteric pet problems, understandably seizes the opportunity to cross off one item quickly without researching it, hoping to please constituents with a “feel-good” law. The House has already done so; the Senate may be poised to do the same.
If they do that, they will kill dogs and break a lot of owners’ hearts.
In our modern society, living closer together seems to have resulted in more, not less intolerance. Non-dog-owners don’t tolerate noise from their neighbors’ dogs, and some even harrass them with constant complaints to Animal Control. I know of several noisy dogs in Massachusetts that received death threats from neighbors. One got debarked. The other two eventually died from poisoned food thrown over the fence.
A friend of mine had to euthanize a dog for barking long ago when she was living in an apartment. She never really recovered from it, and even twenty years afterwards, as she was telling me about it, she was crying. She said she wished she had known about debarking. She would have done it gladly to save her dog’s life.
The operation is a last resort for owners who can’t keep their dogs quiet enough to satisfy local ordinances. It is very minor surgery that takes only five minutes including anesthesia, because all the vet does is open the dog’s mouth, reach down the throat, and make a small nick in the vocal fold (one on each side of the throat) with a biopsy tool or laser. It takes the edge off the voice so it is quieter and doesn’t carry far. It has almost no health risks when done by an experienced veterinarian. Dogs recover within minutes, show no pain, and continue to bark happily (but more softly). They don’t even seem to notice the difference and communicate just fine.
Myths abound, such as the idea that some commercial breeders do the job themselves. Not true: It is rare and specialized surgery that even most vets don't know how to do. And it has always been illegal to “practice veterinary medicine without a license.”
Another myth is that anyone can cure excessive barking with attention, training, and exercise. Unfortunately, there will always be a few dogs whose barking even expert trainers can’t reduce. Just as there will also always be some neighbors for whom nothing but absolute silence will suffice. Besides, not every owner is an expert trainer or can afford expensive electronic collars and consultations with behaviorists.
Why is there so much misinformation about this bill? It is typical of an “animal rights” bill. Although being promoted by a Needham teenager, H.344 was actually written by an out-of-state animal rights organization as part of the nationally coordinated animal rights campaign to make it harder to own pets and eat meat. The crucial difference between animal rights and animal welfare is that the animal rights goal is not humane treatment, but creating a vegan society. They know few people would agree, so they hide behind proposals that superficially sound humane, to fool those without first-hand knowledge of how animal husbandry really works. But the proposals always end up killing animals or making meat more expensive.
It is scary to think that our legislators will be voting on a veterinary procedure without the veterinary knowledge that would help them recognize which facts they are being presented with are true, and which false. This bill would set dangerous precedents by banning a medical operation and making vets file reports justifying their medical decisions. The American Veterinary Medical Association and Massachusetts Veterinary Medical Association opposes it, saying that vets should make the decision about when to use debarking as a last resort.
With the media whipping up emotional reactions from the public, it is the duty of our legislators to call a halt to the emotion-mongering and return our legal system to the level of fact, rationality and common sense.
Consider This: Debarking Bill Is a Lie
by Bonnie Chandler, copyright 2010
This article appeared in the Harvard Press on 4/2/10 at this link.
Massachusetts state senators voted for a lie last week. Some of them even knew it was a lie, but they voted for it anyway, because they were afraid not to.
They were afraid to be labeled as voting for something that media hype has dubbed “cruelty to animals,” even though it is not. They let emotion and media hype and “everyone else is voting for it” affect their decision.
H.344, the bill to ban dog “devocalization” surgery, also known as “debarking” or, more accurately, “bark softening,” is based on a lie. It is an “animal rights” bill. To anyone who has really paid attention to animal rights, this is a tautology. In my opinion, animal rights bills are always based on lies.
This law will kill many dogs and break many pet owners’ hearts. This, too, is typical of animal rights bills.
If this sounds extreme, it is because the public needs to know the bald truth. Despite the efforts of many concerned dog owners who tried to tell them the truth, our legislators voted for the bill without checking facts. They ignored information provided by dog experts, trainers, and veterinarians in favor of the more sensational testimony of those who, though they may care deeply about animals, are misinformed. The result is that our legislators supported the agenda of national fundraising organizations that are running a coordinated campaign to force us to live by their political philosophy—the idea that we are better off living without any animals at all.
There is a crucial difference between animal “rights” and animal “welfare.” Animal rights only sounds like it is about making animal care more humane. It is really about taking our animals away from us and creating a vegan society. The leaders know very few people would agree, so they hide behind proposals that superficially sound humane, to fool those without firsthand knowledge of how animal husbandry really works.
But the proposals always end up killing animals or making them more expensive. That is the key to identifying animal rights legislation.
It really is not difficult to figure out—a little critical thinking is all that is needed. Animal rights calls for not just some rights, but equal rights with humans. Equal rights would mean that animals could not be owned, could not be pets, could not be hunted, could not be eaten. Because who, given freedom of choice, would choose those things? (That is the theory, anyway.)
An out-of-state animal rights organization wrote H.344 and persuaded a local teenager to propose it.
Even though debarking surgery is quick, safe, and only partially softens dogs’ voices, the idea sounds horrible to people who have not heard of it before. They ask, “Why would anyone do that to their dog?” They think this is a rhetorical question. It is not. There are good reasons that dog owners may need to have it done.
Bark softening is one of the coping mechanisms that allows us to keep animals even in dense housing, where they may annoy neighbors. Cities, towns, neighborhoods, condo associations, apartment buildings all have ordinances that allow them to evict nuisances, and dog barking is always specified as one of the nuisances.
The truth is, the idea of surgery seems just as horrible to a dog owner threatened with eviction, but there may be no other way to keep the dog. In many cases, euthanization is the only other option. Although most dogs can, with much careful work, be trained to be quieter, there will always be a few that cannot, even with expert trainers. And there will always be a few neighbors for whom nothing but absolute silence will suffice.
In fact, the surgery is done for the neighbors, not the owners.
Because very few people have any direct experience with this rare surgery, the bill promoters were able to get away with egregious lies. They waved pictures of a dog with a huge surgical incision from some other cause and said it was a debark job; they posted YouTube videos of dogs with weird voices from illness or injury and said they were debarked; they said it is “common,” “painful,” has dangerous side effects. They asserted that all dogs can easily be trained to bark less and that owners who can’t are “just lazy.” They whipped up public outcry with inflammatory descriptions of “silencing” dogs, “taking away their only form of communication,” “ripping out their voice boxes,” “cutting their throats.” They said breeders get whole litters of puppies devocalized “for profit,” sometimes even doing the job themselves by cruel methods. None of this is true.
They even dragged in imaginary connections to drug dealers and illegal dogfighting.
The few voices of those with actual knowledge were hard to hear in the hubub, and the few legislators who listened to them were not always sure who to believe. The debarking operation is so rare that even most veterinarians have no experience with it, so some were advocating on the side of the ignorant.
This is what happens when legislators are put in the false position of dictating how other people pursue their professions. They should not be voting on esoteric veterinary matters without the veterinary knowledge to know when they are being given false information. The decision should be left to the vets.
This vote sets a dangerous precedent by banning a veterinary procedure based on emotional media promotion, and requiring vets to justify their medical decisions. This precedent is just what the animal rights folks are waiting for. They announced years ago what they plan to do with it: Ban more and more veterinary procedures and demand more oversight, until it becomes impossible or too expensive to keep pets healthy.
The bill now goes back to the House to be reconciled with the version the House passed a month ago.
As I See It: Debarking Bill Based on Lies
by Bonnie Chandler, copyright 2010
This article appeared in the Telegram and Gazette (Worcester, MA) on 4/20/10 at this link.
Massachusetts state senators voted for a lie recently. Most knew it was a lie, but were afraid not to vote for it.
They were afraid to be labeled as supporting what media hype has dubbed “cruelty to animals,” even though it is not.
The bill to ban dog devocalization surgery, also known as “debarking” or “bark softening,” is based on lies. It is an “animal rights” bill. To anyone who pays attention to animal rights, this is a tautology. Animal rights bills are always based on lies.
This law will kill many dogs and break many pet owners’ hearts — also typical of animal rights bills.
If this sounds extreme, the public needs to know the truth. Despite the efforts of concerned dog owners, both chambers voted for the bill without checking facts. They ignored information provided by dog experts, trainers, and veterinarians in favor of sensational testimony from those who, though they may care about animals, are misinformed. Consequently, our legislators supported the agenda of national fundraising organizations who are running a coordinated campaign to force us to live by the animal rights political philosophy.
There is a crucial difference between animal “rights” and animal “welfare.” Animal rights activists only pretend to be about humane animal care as an excuse to take our animals away from us and create a vegan society. The leaders know their philosophy is unpopular, so they hide behind proposals that superficially sound humane, to fool those without firsthand knowledge of how animal husbandry really works.
But the proposals always end up killing animals or making them more expensive.
It is not difficult to figure out; it only requires a little critical thinking. Animal rights calls for not just some rights, but equal rights with humans. Equal rights would mean animals could not be owned, could not be pets, could not be hunted, could not be eaten. Because who, given freedom of choice, would choose those things?
Even though the surgery is quick, safe, and only partially softens dogs’ voices, the idea sounds horrible to people who have not heard of it before. They don’t understand that the surgery is invariably done for the neighbors, not the owners.
Bark softening is one of the coping mechanisms that allows us to keep animals even in dense housing. Cities, towns, neighborhoods, condo associations, apartment buildings: All have ordinances that allow them to evict nuisances, and dog barking is always specified as a nuisance.
In fact, the surgery seems just as horrible to a dog owner threatened with eviction, but in many cases, euthanasia is the only other option.
Because very few people have any direct experience with this rare surgery, the bill promoters were able to get away with egregious lies. They waved pictures of a dog with a huge surgical incision from another cause and said it was a debark job. They said it is “common,” “painful,” and “unnecessary,” because all dogs can easily be trained to bark less and owners who can’t are “just lazy.” They whipped up public outcry with inflammatory descriptions of “silencing” dogs, “taking away their only form of communication,” “ripping out their voice boxes,” “cutting their throats,” and “heartless breeders” doing the job themselves by cruel methods.
None of this is true.
The few voices of those with actual knowledge were hard to hear in the hubbub, and the few legislators who listened were not always sure whom to believe. Even most vets have no experience with this rare operation, so some vets were advocating on the side of the ignorant.
Legislators should not be dictating how other people pursue their professions. They should not be voting on esoteric veterinary matters without the veterinary knowledge to know when they are being given false information. The decision should be left to the vets.
This vote sets a dangerous precedent by banning a veterinary procedure based on emotional media promotion, and requiring vets to justify their medical decisions. The precedent is just what the animal rights folks were waiting for. They announced years ago what they plan to do with it: Ban more and more veterinary procedures and demand more oversight, until it becomes impossible or too expensive to keep pets healthy.
Bonnie Chandler is a small-scale goat farmer in Massachusetts and has been training dogs all her life. She is active in many dog clubs and animal events.
Is Farming Doomed?
by Bonnie Chandler, copyright 2009
This article was posted on the NAIA website in 2009.
If things go on the way they have been lately, livestock farming is doomed.
Let me qualify that: The only hope of avoiding that doom is for the public to learn to think critically instead of emotionally about political and social problems.
A hundred years ago the majority of our population had to be farmers in order to keep our country supplied with food. Now that farms have become so efficient that they employ less than two percent of the U.S. population, most people remember only vaguely that even small-scale professional pet and livestock care is hard, dirty work and farms are dirty, smelly places. They remember just enough to be happy to keep far away from them.
The unfortunate consequence is that the public knows less and less about what farms are like, how farmers do things, and the reasons for doing them that way. When confronted with specific issues, they are shocked – shocked! – that farms are dirty and smelly and animals don’t always have the same cushy life there as the pets in their homes.
Animal rights organizations such as HSUS and PETA take advantage of public squeamishness to promote their goals. They don’t believe people should either eat meat or have pets. While demanding that everyone else be respectful of their philosophy, they do not reciprocate, but instead try to force their ideas on everyone else by stealth.
Animal rights organizations manipulate public ignorance with media blitzes full of false information demonizing specific practices. They promote and lie about proposed legislation that will harm animals, insisting that the proposals will protect animals. They don’t hesitate to lie; after all, it’s for our own “good”! The public believes the animal rights organizations when they claim to be the experts, because the organizations are making a lot of noise with the hundreds of millions of dollars that clueless pet lovers have donated to those “charities.” They shout down or drown out any protests from truly knowledgeable animal experts.
So the public cries, “Eeeeeew! That’s dirty/smelly/cruel -- no one should be allowed to do it!” The public thinks it’s all right to ban whatever “it” is without learning more or wondering why anyone would do it that way in the first place. And in many cases they should be asking if the practice in question even exists as described. So the animal rights organizations simply go down the list of the ways things are done (or invent rumors about how they are done), picking them off one by one, state by state, starting with the least common, least understood and, therefore, easiest to ban.
No one notices that if all the practices being badmouthed are banned in more and more places, the cumulative effect will be no more pets, no more farms, no more meat on the table.