TOP AMIMAL STORIES OF 2007
by Nancy Marano
2007 was a big year for animals. Whether the issue was animal fighting, tainted pet food or mandatory spay/neuter legislation, people were asked to think about animals in a deeper way. These rankings are arbitrary but the issues are not. Everyone who loves animals and wants to see the world be a better, more humane place for them to live needs to pay attention to animal issues and take action wherever possible.
1) Animal fighting
Michael Vick’s conviction on dog fighting and animal cruelty charges grabbed the headlines for months. It also focused attention on the whole issue of animal fighting. Supplying money for dog-related gambling activities and the possible brutal killing of dogs earned Michael Vick 23 months in jail and five years of supervised probation on federal charges. The loss of his career, his money and his freedom may make others understand the consequences involved in animal fighting. Perhaps they will also think of the horrors that animals face in these activities. At least we hope so.
New Mexico’s law banning cockfighting has also gained national recognition. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) believes our law led to a ban in Louisiana and the increase of penalties for animal fighting at the federal level. In San Diego more than 5,000 birds were seized in the largest cockfighting bust in U.S. history. Locally, Animal Protection of New Mexico (APNM) has launched an animal cruelty/animal fighting task force in conjunction with the Attorney General and other law enforcement officials.
This increased visibility of law enforcement agencies actually making raids and bringing people up on animal fighting charges reminds people in a forceful, tangible way that animal fighting will no longer be tolerated. (For more information see PETroglyphs, Spring 2007.)
2) Tainted pet food
If your pet was affected by the tainted pet food scandal, you know how awful it feels to know the food you are feeding your pet to keep him healthy is actually killing him. People were amazed to learn how many brands were involved in the massive pet food recalls. Pet owners were afraid to buy any canned food. It was even more surprising to learn that no clearinghouse like the Centers for Disease Control exists for veterinarians to get information on animal health issues.
This tragic story spotlighted the need for 1) regular inspections of pet food manufacturing plants, 2) immediate reporting by manufacturers to the FDA any animal health problems reported to them, 3) the centralization of the agencies dealing with the pet food industry, 4) making pet food labels easier to read and 5) the establishment of a national clearinghouse for veterinarians to track pet illnesses. (See PETroglyphs Summer 2007.)
3) Emphasis on spay/neuter
California successfully passed mandatory spay/neuter legislation. The goals of the legislation are to reduce pet overpopulation and decrease the euthanasia rates for unwanted companion animals. Breeders and others opposed this controversial legislation because it was seen as a way of limiting breeders’ rights.
New Mexico is working to improve the infrastructure to make spay and neuter both available and affordable to everyone. Groups are forming across the state to provide these services. There are groups in Las Cruces,Albuquerque and Santa Fe dedicated to making spay/neuter available to all. (See PETroglyphs, Spring and Summer 2007.)
4) Ellen DeGeneres and Iggy
This tear-filled problem was aired on many TV programs. If you missed it, Ellen adopted a small dog named Iggy from a local rescue organization. After neutering the dog and taking him for training, Iggy didn’t get along with Ellen’s cat. So Ellen gave Iggy to her hairdresser whose children wanted a dog. When the rescue group called to check on Iggy, Ellen told them what she’d done. The rescue organization said she wasn’t allowed to give the dog away. If she couldn’t keep Iggy, he had to be returned to the rescue group. The group took Iggy back and found a new home for him.
Could this dilemma have been solved in another way? Yes, if both sides had worked together to bring a solution that was humane for Iggy and the people involved. While the coverage of this story was over the top in many ways, it does bring up a valid point for animal lovers. If you adopt an animal from a rescue organization, make sure you understand the terms of the agreement you are signing. Each group has rules to protect their animals and most reputable rescue groups require an animal be returned to them if the adopter can’t keep it.
5) Increased attention to animal protection issues by lawmakers and law enforcement officials
State and local lawmakers have learned animal protection issues are important to their constituents. They are demonstrating this understanding by getting actively involved in improving animal policies. They also grasp the link between animal cruelty and family violence, and want to work toward ending all the violence. Law enforcement officials are more diligent about enforcing animal cruelty and animal fighting laws now. APNM will be offering courses in 2008 to train law enforcement officers to investigate animal fighting cases.
6) Pet owners spending a record $41 billion dollars on their animals
Americans love their companion animals. Spending on pets, including pet food, toys and various products, is the eighth larges retail sales category in the USA. In the last decade the amount spent on pets has doubled. According to the American Pet Product Manufacturer’s Association, there are 245 million pets in the United States. That’s almost as many pets as people.
7) Bald eagle taken off the endangered species list
In June the bald eagle was officially taken off the Federal List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife and Plants where it has resided since 1967. When it was listed, only 417 breeding pairs existed in this country. Now there are over 10,000. Eagles are present in all of the lower 48 states and Alaska. They will still be protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and the Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act. Congratulations on a huge success story!
If we missed animal stories you felt were important in 2007, we invite you to let us know. Keep track of the stories you would put on the list and we’ll try it again in 2008.