Pawsitively Humane

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Scientists Agree Lolita the Whale is Safer at Seaquarium




In South Florida, where most of the year the weather is a perfect paradise, it also means many animals live here in the wild and in captivity at attractions.  One current hot issue is Lolita the killer whale at the Miami Seaquarium attraction. There is mounting pressure to release the whale to her "natural habitat" the open sea where she has more space to swim and roam. If only it were that simple. Animal rescuers/ pet advocates and scientists are at odds. Most scientists are against releasing Lolita except for marine biologist Ken Balcomb.

For 25 years, Balcomb has been lobbying for Lolita's release to reunite her with her family and restore balance in her native waters, with fisheries and other whales.  The problem for most other scientists, 25 years is much too late and poses great risks.



At Pawsitively Humane, we are reminded "think with your head, not just your heart". 

Most of us are not marine experts. But to begin to relate and comprehend, we turned to our own community of  long-time pet rescuers, especially those who work with feral cats, and posed this question  to understand the pros and cons of releasing the whale:

Would you release an indoor cat that has lived in your home for 10 years with food, attention, (albeit limited space) into a fenced off outdoor area to be with other cats?  

The answer was a resounding no. We know as cat educators that other community cats may not welcome your beloved indoor cat and may try to attack your Cleo. Even worse, Cleo's health is not resistant to fleas, ticks, mosquitoes, and other pathogens.

Is this a fair comparison? Cats and Whales.

For long time pet rescuers many would say yes.  Cats are inherent hunters, the outdoors is their natural habitat. They need vertical (trees) and horizontal space to climb and run freely. Whether on farmland, in the countryside of places like Tuscany, Italy, the coastline of Mediterranean, or riding on ships in historic English times, cats are outdoor creatures. Yet many of us beg people to adopt them, to take them indoors where they are forced to live confined within walls with limited space to climb and run.  To rescue them from a new environment-- a rough life in city streets. City life and highways with few food sources is not ideal for cats. However, we also know cats adapt to the indoors and are generally happy.

The point: the outdoor environment is evolving. It may be safe one day, and changes in nature, as well as human neglect, poses a dangerous environment. Returning a long-held captive animal to an environment with unfamiliar sights, sounds, temperatures, creatures,dangers and toxins or a whole new environment can be stressful for many animals.


Everyone Agrees Lolita Needs More Space

Scientists and animal activists on both sides of the Lolita issue agree that a bigger tank is the ideal situation for Lolita. However building one now is not feasible.  But is Lolita safer where she is now after all this time?

What is a "Suitable" Environment for a Whale in Long-Term Captivity?

Balcomb and the Lummi Tribe, a native American Indian tribe from the region where Lolita was captured, believe a sectioned off sea pen with plans to slowly rehabilitate her and reintroduce Lolita to natural whale sea life has to work.

The biggest risk according to scientists who oppose it say it is due to her age. For 43 of her 47 years she knows only one home, one environment, the tank at the Seaquarium with her constant roommates the dolphins and her daily caretakers, the feeders and trainers. Transplating to her native waters and surroundings would not be natural to the captive whale



The Tragic Case of Releasing Keiko the Killer Whale

Opposing scientists point to many cases and the famous case of releasing Keiko the killer whale inspired by the movie "Free Willy". Keiko,  living in a tank in an amusement park in Mexico, was released to his natural waters. Unfortunately the whale did not adapt and kept swimming back to his owner's boats. He missed his human. He missed home. More tragic, his body and immune system not accustomed to the pathogens in the ocean water, developed pneumonia and died within a year. Keiko was 26 years old.

Keiko in a sling about to be released in sea pen in Heimaey, Iceland


We see this human bond with our own outdoor pets whether it's cats, pigs, horses...Why would whales be any different? 

The Human Bond with Lolita the Killer Whale

 
It was late one night in 1989 when Craig Pelton, then a young whale trainer, snuck into the whale stadium at Miami Seaquarium after it closed and waded into the 50 degree water.
After-hours whale swims were categorically prohibited, so, naturally, the trainers did it from time to time, Pelton said. It was a time before “Blackfish,” before a trainer had been killed by a captive whale, before the “Free Lolita” movement started making waves. In the water, Pelton watched as Lolita swam over. The orca was in her mid-20s by then, about 20 feet long and 7,000 pounds. A full moon illuminated the stadium below. Lolita paused and put her pectoral fin under his body — then she snuggled to his side. On Pelton’s other side, Lolita’s tank mate Makani, a Pacific white-sided dolphin, did the same. “I laid there for about five, 10 minutes, all three [of us] at the surface,” Pelton said. “She was just a sweet animal that was just amazing to work with.”

Change and assimilation are at the heart of the argument against Lolita’s release.


 “You would have to be just so incredibly careful about how you approximate that change. You can’t control the heavy metal toxicity in the water that is prevalent in our coastal regions. You can’t control the pathogens, the bacteria; her immune system is not adept,” said Mark Simmons, director of husbandry on the Keiko project and also authored a book on Keiko’s death called “Killing Keiko.”

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article185517463.html#storylink=cpy
 The Miami Herald spoke to a dozen experts on killer whales around the nation. They included experts without a stake in Lolita’s case, some who worked on the Keiko release project, scientists currently working on seaside sanctuary projects for aquatic mammals and her caretakers at the Seaquarium. The vast majority said they would advise against moving Lolita to the Pacific Ocean or a seaside sanctuary. [Miami Herald November 2017]

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article185517463.html#storylink=cpy

Read more here: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/business/article185517463.html#storylink=cpy

What Went Wrong in the Campaign to Release Lolita?

Time and  Money. If this was 1995, timing was more optimal to transition Lolita back to sea life.  Unfortunately, it takes time to educate government and the public but also to collect money, donations.  If campaigning requires significant funding so does implementing the plan and overseeing it. The entire project of logistics (transportation) and constant care from a medical standpoint (veterinary) and her daily interaction with humans would amount to millions of dollars. 

One Silver Lining, Lolita the Ambassador

While Lolita may never be released, one result both sides can agree on is that Lolita continues her role as the ambassador for releasing captive whales.  The trend is declining with new fervor and enacted laws prohibiting the captivity of orca whales or any ocean mammals. Lolita remains one of three killer whales still housed in amusement attractions in the U.S.

A Future Marine Scientist


Upon visiting the Seaquarium  to talk to protestors, I overhead a young boy ask his mother "Are we going to see Lolita again?". "Of course," replied the mother. Then he asked "Who were those people with whale costumes and signs?" The mother explained they wanted to see Lolita the whale returned to her home. That she was taken from her home years ago, from her family.  The boy then asked how long has Lolita been here? "A long time," replied the mother."  "Longer than the other place?" he continued.  "Yes many more years," answered the mother. "Well he has friends, the dolphins and his teachers here and plenty of fish food. Why would they take her away from home again?"  Aaah the innocence and clarity of a child's mind. Maybe this is the confirmation we need to accept Lolita's fate with some ease.

Miami Seaquarium
Christine Michaels with her nephew Gabriel in 2014 visiting Miami Seaquarium


by Christine Michaels

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Over 100 Dogs Abandoned in Hurricane Irma



Hurricane Irma has come and gone. Her path of havoc was not limited to land and trees and buildings. Natural disasters are a litmus test for pet owners. Do they have a disaster plan for their pets? Sadly we learn about pets, especially dogs, tied up in backyards or homes while their owners flee. Dozens were spotted and taken in temporarily by county animals services in all three counties in South Florida. In this video, a German shepherd, with evident fresh cuts and injuries still bloody, lying lifeless in the hurricane aftermath. A passerby thought he was dead although eyes were open. He approached the dog to see it was still breathing and called for help. Angels indeed came in the form of Guardians to the Rescue, a nonprofit animal rescue organization. See the video below. At Pawsitively Humane, Inc. we are collecting donations to help many pets left behind in the hurricane. These donations will be used to mostly pay vet bills and supplies such as pet food, beds, cat litter and leashes. Click on the donation button to the right. Remember no amount is too small.



It is time for authorities to enforce laws and pursue felony charges if possible.
We will be following all cases.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Check Out America's 3rd Cat Cafe


Monday, April 4, 2016

#JusticeforTiger Update April 4, 2016



The silver lining behind the tragic, intentional killing of a local pet cat by a veterinarian Kristen Lindsey, is that international interest has not waned after a year! Animal advocates remain vigilant, informed and concerned.

Another site, the Encyclopedia Britannica Advocacy for Pets added an entry today with an excellent summary of events including a timeline. We will continue to provide updates on social media.

The latest update is that while the Texas State Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners voted to revoke her veterinary license, however Lindsey is still fighting back. Now the case is before SOAH which allowed Lindsey to renew her vet license in February 2016. The hearing at SOAH is set for April (Please read the excerpt below).


After deliberation, the TBVME Enforcement Committee found Lindsey in violation, voted to revoke her veterinary license, and issued its findings in an order to Lindsey, describing the violations and proposed sanctions of the TBVME (license revocation). Lindsey rejected the order, and the case proceeded to the Texas State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH).
On October 2, the TBVME filed a formal complaint against Lindsey with the SOAH, seeking revocation of her veterinary license. As of March 19, 2016, 43 documents have been filed for the Lindsey case. Documents include witness lists, objections, amicus briefs, rulings by the court, and schedules. Attempts to mediate a settlement were unsuccessful. A hearing is scheduled to begin April 25, 2016, more than a year after the crime.
Kristen Lindsey renewed her Texas veterinary license in February 2016.
International public interest in this landmark case remains high. The TBVME has received more than 700 formal complaints against Lindsey, as well as written comments from all 50 states and 77 countries, and more than 27,000 e-mails regarding Lindsey’s actions. Many citizens and several animal advocacy groups continue to call for the criminal investigation against Lindsey to be reopened. More facts have come to light during the licensing investigation which further justify revisiting the criminal case. The statute of limitations on the criminal matter is three years.

 Is Lindsey practicing veterinarian medicine? We do not believe she is at this time, at least not in Texas.

Monday, March 21, 2016

A Cat with No Name- Life Lessons


Putting on a brave face. It never gets easier to help an injured animal.

Today was a tough Monday. I received a call from a friend. In the middle of night, a cat was found lying in the middle of street, unable to move his hind legs. Most likely struck by a speeding vehicle. This morning he was found a few feet away resting, still alive, in the garden of an apartment complex. 

He was a feral, intact (not neutered) orange male cat.  To test his limits as to how close he would permit me to approach him,  he hissed wildly. Suddenly the cat jumped on his front paws, and like an exotic jungle animal, he gracefully lifted his hips and dangled his hind legs like ballet slippers, and proceeded to walk on his front paws with exquisite balance. I wondered if this cat was born with a defect and grew up adjusting to the lack of using his hind legs.  But upon resting, his body language showed signs of pain.

stray feral cat hit by car and can not walk
Struck cat had no use of hind legs.
He depending entirely on his upper arms and body.

[To learn more about how we trapped him on the scene, please click here].

 As I flustered through the front door of the vet clinic, the staff, on standby, stood up and rushed the cat to the back. The receptionist asked me a few routine questions: type of cat, color, male or female...As I turned, a look of mournful faces in a crowded waiting room of other customers and their pets sat solemn, studying my face. It was obvious they were waiting a long time and would wait longer. They didn't seem to mind and understood emergencies came first. Then an elderly woman asked me what happened and I explained. She asked if I knew this cat. I said no. I was helping a friend and an injured stray cat I had never seen before. She replied  "if only there were more people like you".  Those words were like a warm embrace that I needed.  It NEVER gets easier.  The pain is raw every time.

I wondered in my time of need would a stranger help me? Another client replied, "Yes he or she would. That stranger is no stranger. It has a name. Karma." My heart smiled.

The results of the xrays and examination were not hopeful and it was decided, the best decision was euthanasia. In the PTS (put to sleep) room, the technician entered information on the computer. He was thumbing through a list of cats listed as "STRAY NO NAME".  No! I would not let him die with no name. Not another "stray" or another number in a litany of homeless injured city cats that died a typical death. He was not typical.  Each cat is unique. Each cat has a story. Each cat has a life.  He would die with dignity and a name.

Reflecting. Final words for Karma.

Under sedation. I stroked his forehead and lithe body. My hand over his chest, I could feel his heart beating. I was his last connection between life and death. Between earth and heaven.  I would name him Karma.

Within minutes of his overdue birth name, Karma crossed the rainbow bridge.

A cat I never met.
A cat I never knew.
A cat I could not touch before today. 
A cat I cried for.
I cried for Karma.

He reminded me of one of our beloved orange Riverfront cats, Lion King, but Karma did not have any caretaker. Only now, moments before his death, he had a caretaker. Karma had me, a stranger who cared. 

So despite this grief, I felt a small sense of joy.  I made a difference today. While not meteoric, one less innocent creature was spared long drawn out suffering.  One cat did not die alone.

However, I can not accept all the credit. My friend Laurent made the initial call, a plea for help and fellow animal lovers on Facebook all rallied to help us find solutions for getting the cat into the trap, and furiously networked to find a larger rescue group or volunteers to nurse this feral cat if he could be saved.  What a difference teamwork makes. Thank you all!



There are life lessons in every day incidents, even tragedy.

- Give back regularly.  I live in an upscale condo community in downtown Miami and many friends and neighbors indulge in the good life. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that, as long as we remember to give back. While one does not have to donate thousands of dollars, giving back regularly in some form, keeps us grounded, keeps us humble and makes us happier because only when we are grateful for what we have and kind and respectful to others, are we truly happy. Remember we can not take our fancy cars, yachts, clothes and jewelry with us when we die. Only the spirit of our soul. 

- A simple act of kindness can make a world of difference.  There are those who are lonely and suffer quietly.  A kind word, a brief conversation can uplift their world. This reminded me when I temporarily lived with my aunt in a condo complex only for retired individuals, while I was waiting to move closer to my job in downtown. Some were sad and/or bitter because they were lonely.  But as I spoke to them regularly, they smiled and looked forward to when I returned home from work, and offered me home cooked meals, just so they would have someone to talk to. I was in my late 20's at the time. Young people my age were at happy hour regularly. I went home and visited with neighbors. Today I visit with neighborhood cats.

Be aware of and kind to one another.

If you would like to make a donation to help our efforts, we gladly accept monetary funds, cat food, old towels and sheets...Each item is critical to our operations. To make a donation to help with vet bill for Karma, visit our cat site www.riverfrontcats.com and click on DONATE button.

To learn more about how to help stray cats in your community, visit our cat specialty website:
www.riverfrontcats.com

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


Tuesday, January 5, 2016

#JusticeForTiger



As our nation becomes aware and moves toward more humane treatment of pets and stray animals, the tragic story of Tiger the cat is pivotal in the creation and enforcement of animal cruelty laws.

At Pawsitively Humane and our specialty efforts at Riverfront Cats, we know first hand how these laws are broken daily yet very hard to prove.  Sadly in this case, a veterinarian killed a neighborhood pet cat and bragged about it openly on social media.  Yet she was not indicted.

The good news is that outrage was immediate, international, and concerned residents continue to follow this case closely with great interest across social media platforms, blogs, news forums, etc.  This case will effect current and future laws.

This website will track the progress events as it plays out in the State of Texas, and in the online and offline world of animal advocates. Follow us on social media to stay updated on unfolding events!

www.facebook.com/PawsitivelyHumane
www.twitter.com/SaveOurPaws


Verdict for Vet Kristen Lindsey who Killed Cat with Bow and Arrow


Update: April 4, 2016 - Entry in Encyclopedia Britannica, Advocacy for Animals


Sunday, October 18, 2015

Jackson Galaxy- Cat Daddy Guest Speaker at Cat Network Gala



There are cat people, cat owners, cat supporters, crazy cat ladies and then there is cat daddy, Jackson Galaxy,  better known as the cat guy from the popular Animal Planet TV series, "My Cat from Hell".  True cat lovers know this name or have seen his show.  Jackson was the guest speaker to top off a very special event--the 20th anniversary of the Cat Network.



Christine Michaels, Founder and President of Pawsitively Humane, Inc. and Riverfront Cats is a member of the Cat Network and volunteer.  Michaels along with Deborah Barnes, author and award-winning blogger of Zee& Zoey’s Cat Chronicles and Pawsitively Humane board member, attended the 20 year anniversary/fundraising gala for the Cat Network of Miami on Saturday, October 17.


Deb Barnes Christine Michaels sexy cat ladies
Deb Barnes and Christine Michaels

Everyone waited in anticipation for Jackson's presentation. For rescuers in the audience, it was more meaningful.  He spoke their language. We all speak a little known wordly language. We speak "cat"! Whether it's terms like TNRM, mojo, or reading a cat's body language to better communicate with them, it was uplifting that one of our own, had made it to national television.



His overall message was like a thumbs up, an indirect acknowledgment to the mission of Pawsitively Humane and Riverfront Cats  that we need to educate people, dog people, proclaimed non-cat people, that cats are not aloof, distant creatures...but wanting of playtime and attention like dogs..."  That is exactly what we do!  It doesn't matter how many cats or dogs we rescue and find homes for. Until we educate the masses and get them involved, we will never reverse the rate of homeless pets.  Education is key!

Deb Barnes Jackson Galaxy Christine Michaels stray cats Miami TNR
Deb Barnes, Jackson Galaxy, Christine Michaels

 For Michaels and Barnes,  both proponents of TNRM (Trap, Neuter, Return, Manage) as a humane means to successfully reduce cat overpopulation, the event was also an opportunity to interact with like-minded people and to help raise funding and awareness to further the Cat Network’s efforts in unison with other organizations and resident volunteers to educate the public about the need to sterilize their pets and community cats.

The semi-formal event had several hundred guests in attendance and was held at the Robert and Judi Prokop Newman Alumni Center at the University of Miami. There was a silent auction for fundraising, showcasing art, travel, literature, custom designed cat collectibles, and of course best-selling author of Catification and Cat Daddy, Jackson Galaxy.

Prior to Jackson being introduced to the crowd by the event’s Mistress of Ceremonies, Bonnie Berman, Co-Host/Producer of Topical Currents on 91.3 WLRN Public Radio, Cat Network President, Karen Rundquist, gave a moving tribute of the Cat Network’s growth since its inception in 1995 when the organization was initiated by a handful of women to its current status of over 2,500 volunteer and donor members. She also told guests that the Cat Network is working diligently to make South Florida a No-Kill community and that they have trapped and sterilized over 51,000 stray and abandoned cats and have adopted out over 7,000 cats since 1995. Remarkable!



When Jackson made his way to the podium, he gave a rousing and inspirational speech to audience members about what they personally could do to help get more people accepting of cats as good pets so that more of them are adopted and less of them are in shelters. His solution – by providing the best "mojo"  possible for them so they can live in an environment that lets them establish territorial ownership along with their pre-wired disposition  to hunt, catch, kill, and eat (mojo is defined as walking through the world in the minds-eye of a cat and learning what it is that motivates them). If those things aren't in place, especially the ownership aspect, Jackson stated, that “bad things” could happen. He put cats into three categories, and for him, every cat needs to be a Mojito cat.

Famous cats from Zee and Zoey clan

A Mojito cat is defined as the one that has swagger - a cat that walks boldly into a room with her tail held high with a slight question mark hook to it. She is a happy cat who is confident in her surroundings.
The Napoleon or gangster cat is insecure. He needs to prove something and will puff his chest out a bit in an offensive, aggressive posture. He might lie down across the doorway of a house to make sure you have to step over him and he might pee on things because he doesn’t trust his ownership of the territory. 

Lastly is the Wallflower cat. She is the one that politely hopes you won’t notice her as she sneaks by to use the litter box. She stays close to the wall as she walks, and you never see her in the center of the room because she doesn’t think she is the owner of the territory, nor does she want trouble with whoever is.

In order to achieve Mojito status, he shared that a cat needs a variety of key ingredients – toys to mimic hunt and play behaviors, lots of vertical space for them to claim as territory, proper diet, veterinary care, and spay/neuter to help keep the personalities and health in check. When all those boxes are checked off, the cat becomes confident of the territory they live in. These are the kinds of cats that break the misleading stereotypes that cats are too independent and aloof to make good pets and they are also the kind of cats that are NOT brought to shelters for behavioral problems.   



It was a lovely evening with vegeterian hors'doevres,  wine, sparkling flavored water, and classical music. Soothing, contemplative, enjoyable.  For cat supporters, our mission is clear--keep on educating those around you.

Here's to the Cat Network for 20 great years and to 20 more!

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