A Fair Judgement For Animals

It’s Time for Law-Makers to Recognize that Animal Cruelty is not a Minor Infraction

 

In this day and age of global humanitarian crises and massive human rights violations, it is often easy to overlook widespread abuse, mistreatment, and neglect of animals. At Animal Support charity, we strive to highlight the fact that animals are the most vulnerable living beings among us and shed light on instances of animal cruelty that are too often under-reported and unrecognized in our society.

In particular, we advocate for progressive changes in anti-cruelty laws and federal tracking of animal abuse cases. Indeed, such laws already exist to prohibit unnecessary torture, mistreatment, neglect, and killing on animals. However, as a quick survey of recent news demonstrates, these laws are far from being consistently enforced across the different states. For instance, according to a report published in The Des Moines Register [link 1] earlier this year, the state of Iowa does not punish abusers and killers of animals with fair sentences proportionate to their abhorrent crimes. The report details one particularly shocking incident in which a perpetrator repeatedly kicked his dog and slammed its had into a pole. Although his crimes were recorded on video, this man was charged with only a simple misdemeanor and fined a measly $100. Other cases enumerated in the report demonstrate that violent crimes against animals are treated as minor infractions in Iowa. Instead of punishing animal violence with jail sentences, the courts of Iowa tend to issue small fines that frequently amount to less than a speeding ticket.

While law-makers in some states choose to turn a blind eye to the rampant animal abuse, others take instances of animal cruelty into account to devise progressive legislative efforts. In Pennsylvania, as in Iowa, severe animal abuse is not considered a felony. Thus, a number of news reports have publicized the story of Libre, a Boston terrier puppy who was found sick and extremely emaciated due to neglect on the part of a dog breeder. Following the investigation, the breeder was not presented with any charges. In response, a local lawmaker, Sen. Richard Alloway (R-Franklin/Adams/Cumberland/York), has made it his mission to change the state’s lax laws and introduce a new legislation known as Libre’s Law. First and foremost, the new law seeks to provide a more precise definition of animal neglect and punish it with stricter sentences. We can only hope that this new legislative effort sets a positive precedent and sends a message to those states who continue to ignore the aggravated nature of animal abuse, treating it as a harmless infraction as opposed to a violent crime.

1.) http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/opinion/editorials/2016/08/05/editorial-iowa-treats-animal-abuse-minor-infraction/88069582/

Animal Rights and Public Opinion

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In today’s entry, Julian Omidi discusses recent studies which indicate the level of support and sympathy for the animal rights cause in the U.S.

As the media, filmmakers, and activists present more coverage of animal rights violations than ever before, favorability toward the animal protection movement continues to rise among Americans. A 2015 Human Research Council study found that 77 percent of Americans consider animal protection to be “very” or “somewhat” important, and 70 percent rated this cause as favorable “to any social movement listed in the survey except worker’s rights.”

A recent Gallup poll presented a look inside our understanding of animal mistreatment in the United States. Polls showed that after viewing (or hearing about) documentaries such as Blackfish, Americans became more concerned with the treatment of animals in captivity. Interestingly enough, exposure to documentaries such as Food, Inc. showing the unfair treatment of animals used for food did not significantly raise people’s concern. Overall, Americans have indicated the most concern for the plight of both circus animals and animals used in competitive sports. Participants indicated being “somewhat” concerned about the following types of animals, in descending order: research animals, marine animals, zoo animals, livestock, and household pets.

When these concerns are translated into action, significant progress can be made towards furthering animal protection. Feld Entertainment, parent company of both Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey, announced several months ago that they plan to completely remove all elephants performing in their shows by 2018. They will be moved to an elephant conservation center in Florida, which currently houses over 40 elephants. Feld spokesperson Stephen Payne noted that “years of animal-rights group protests of Ringling Bros.’ use of elephants were a motivating factor in the decision,” and also brought up recent California legislature banning the use of bullhooks to control elephants.

Although considerable progress has been made, there are far more changes in order for the animal rights movement. The Animal Legal Defense Fund has a helpful list of animal protection laws in both the U.S. and Canada—hopefully even more will be added to this list soon.

 

Be good to each other,

Julian Omidi

The Benefits of Animal Therapy

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In today’s entry, Julian Omidi discusses the positive impact therapy animals can have on individuals.

Animals can be a wonderful source of comfort and unconditional love for humans; this has inspired numerous, creative efforts over the years to involve them in therapy. One example of this is Walk and Talk, a counseling program in the U.K. that connects youth who struggle with anxiety to companion animals such as dogs or horses. Project manager Jessica Cotton points out that “animals live in the present moment and offer us non-judgmental, honest feedback in a way that humans often don’t. They teach us to be more aware of the connections between our mind, body and emotions.”

Although dogs are the most common therapy animals, different animals are better suited to specific types of helper roles. Here are the differences between the three types of support animals:

  • Service dogs are individually trained to accompany and help someone who suffers from a disability, performing specific tasks to assist with everyday life. Service dog owners are allowed special exceptions to bring them with to most public places, such as hospitals or planes.
  • Therapy animals visit health facilities to provide a source of comfort for the hospitalized. They are trained to behave calmly and there are many organizations that certify therapy animals.
  • Emotional support animals help those with mental or physical illness, but their owners cannot take them with in as many public places as service dogs.

Animal therapy is proven to alleviate pain, depression, and anxiety in humans. It is also particularly beneficial for people in long-term care facilities, cancer victims, children having dental procedures, and veterans with PTSD.

 

Be good to each other,

Julian Omidi

 

From Rescue to Neglect

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In today’s entry, Julian Omidi discusses recent news of animal hoarding and its implications.

There are millions of unwanted pets in need of loving homes across the country, and the individuals who choose to take care of them generally do so with the best intentions. However, the sad reality is that many of these animals are being ‘saved’ by those who are either unable or unwilling to provide adequate care for them.

The Animal Legal Defense Fund defines a hoarder as someone who meets the following criteria:

  • Keeps an unusually large number of animals
  • Does not provide adequate nutrition, veterinary care, sanitation, or shelter
  • Does not recognize the harmful impact of their behavior on these animals

 

According to the Humane Society, almost 250,000 animals are held by hoarders each year, living in conditions of mild to extreme neglect. Randall Lockwood of the ASPCA states that about 25 percent of hoarding cases in the U.S. involve people who consider themselves animal rescuers. Many would agree that animal hoarders who genuinely believe they are doing good may be suffering from mental illnesses such as dementia, PTSD, or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

The main concern of both communities and law enforcement is that although animals can be safely removed from hoarding situations, many animal hoarders are repeat offenders. In fact, animal hoarding has a nearly 100 percent recidivism rate; these individuals are very likely to “rescue” more animals even after intervention by animal control or social service agencies.

This phenomenon has been studied at Tufts University by researchers who have formed the Hoarding of Animals Research Consortium, an organization which strives to increase awareness of animal hoarding. Through clinical interviews and case analyses of hoarders over nearly an entire decade, HARC has reached insights regarding the cognitive impairments that cause hoarding behavior. Experts say that many hoarders are motivated by offering a relationship and unconditional love that may have never been offered to them by family or peers. Hopefully this research will help those who care for animals, as well as law enforcement agencies, to gain a more complete understanding of these individuals and how to prevent the victimization of innocent animals.

 

Be good to each other,

Julian Omidi

Idaho Judge Declares Ag-Gag Law Unconstitutional

 

So-called “ag-gag” laws that ban secret filming of animal abuse in businesses have been ruled unconstitutional, and it’s a victory for animal rights organizations across the country. The issue came to a head after the activist group Mercy for Animals released graphic videos taken from inside Bettencourt Dairies’ Dry Creek Dairy in Hansen, Idaho. They did not have permission to film, and an ag-gag law was introduced after the video went viral in 2014.

Idaho isn’t the only state where the meat industry has sought to silence critics In many of the states where ag-gag laws were attempted, they were struck down by lawmakers. Idaho is the latest state to join that list.

The judge in Idaho stated that “Protecting the private interests of a powerful industry, which produces the public’s food supply, against public scrutiny is not a legitimate government interest.”

Videos like those released by Mercy for Animals are likely to lead to public outcry and even the boycott of certain meat producers. The meat industry is vital to some states, providing much needed employment and income to residents. But that’s no reason to sanction the inhumane treatment of animals. And it’s no reason to punish the people who risk their careers and livelihoods to bring the truth to light.

There’s reason to be optimistic after the ruling in Idaho. Hopefully other states will follow suit and strike down their ag-gag laws. The goal is transparency in US food production. If we’re unable to expose and discuss corruption, ineptitude, and cruelty in our food supply, we’re setting ourselves up for massive problems in public health and safety.

Holding ourselves to a high standard is the best way of getting American industry to follow our example, so I encourage you to step up and advocate for consumer rights and animal welfare today!

Be good to each other,

Julian Omidi

 

Julian Omidi is co-founder of Animal Support, a nonprofit that advocates for animal rights and supports fellow animal welfare charities.

Will Banning Exotic Animal Trophy Shipments Reduce Big Game Hunting?

Julian Omidi discusses recent decisions by a few major airlines to ban exotic animal trophy shipments.

The killing of Cecil the Lion sparked huge controversy across the Internet. Animal rights advocates made an outcry for different measures to be taken to stop big game hunting. One such effort was for airlines to stop the shipment of exotic animal trophies, and a few actually listened.

As the Huffington Post reported, Delta and American airlines have decided to ban exotic animal trophy shipments after the Cecil the Lion controversy. Delta announced specifically that it would not ship trophies of elephants, lions, buffalo, leopards or rhinoceros worldwide, while stating that it may consider banning the shipment of other animals as well. American Airlines also announced a similar ban on their twitter account. Even with these animal trophies being banned, will big game hunting be reduced?

It may discourage some. The recent social media attacks of known animal hunters has gained notoriety in the mainstream media. This public display of shaming private citizens is usually the spark of a larger change. However, one commonly hunted animal which isn’t on either of these airlines’ banned list is the giraffe. Hunters on Instagram and other social media sites are often posting pictures of them after slaughtering the delicate species.

Most likely, this scrutiny will have a small impact. Though, people who want to do anything that becomes taboo tend to find a way to do such. The shipment of trophies may become more difficult on some airways, but will only create more business for other, less ethical corporations. They will be able to charge more money for the shipment, which hunters will likely pay. Big game hunting is already an expensive activity. In the case of Cecil the Lion, Walt Palmer paid nearly $55,000 to participate in the hunt. It shows the price people are willing to pay to murder these stoic creatures.

It is commendable that Delta and American Airlines made such speedy policy changes. Though to really help animals, big game hunting will have to be made illegal. The shipment of such creatures would have to be banned by all avenues of shipment, and even then it is still possible that people would illegally poach.

It is great to see so much attention brought to this subject. The more advocacy available, the more the public can be informed and push for policy changes.

Be good to each other,

Julian Omidi

Julian Omidi is the co-founder of Animal Support, a nonprofit organization that advocates for animal rights.

Social Media Speaks Out About Big Game Hunting

Julian Omidi discusses the importance of the viral outrage happening towards big game hunters.

In recent months, criticism of big game hunting in countries like Africa have gone viral. More people are sharing their outrage of senseless big game hunting of animals like giraffes and more recent, lions. One of the more vocal animal activists has been comedian Ricky Gervais, who has used social media to shame those who post photos of big game hunting. This week, the outcry got even louder.

Cecil the lion, one of the most beloved creatures in Zimbabwe’s national parks was killed by an American hunter. This news was reported when the hunter, Walter James Palmer of Minnesota boasted about the kill online. Once the information was revealed online, there was a backlash of criticism towards Palmer.

Apparently, Cecil the lion was lured out of the Zimbabwe National Park at night and was then shot with a bow. Afterwards the lion was then skinned and decapitated by the hunters. Cecil the lion was only 13 and beloved by visitors of the Zimbabwe National Park. Palmer is said to have paid upwards of $54,000 for the right to hunt lions.

The public outcry put Palmer, a Dentist who runs his own practice River Bluff Dental, in hot water. People criticized Palmer on the River Bluff dental Facebook page. The profile was taken down a few hours after the frenzy.

Similarly, the company’s Yelp profile was plastered with negative criticism of the killing of Cecil the lion. They then rated the profile 5 stars to push it up the page listing to allow others to find it. People on Twitter even posted Palmer’s home address and telephone number.

The story even got highlighted on Jimmy Kimmel Live! The River Bluff Dental practice has since closed. The building space has been said to become a makeshift memorial for Cecil the Lion. Palmer consistently states that he assumed all his paperwork and the hunt were legal.

It is good that stories like this spark so much advocacy for animals. The more the practice of big game hunting can be scrutinized in the public forum, the more quickly it can be stopped. Some of these animals are the last of the great wildlife we have on this Earth, and they need to be protected.

Be good to each other,

Julian Omidi

Julian Omidi is the co-founder of Animal Support, a nonprofit that advocates for the fair treatment of animals.

 

Euthanasia for Animals

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In today’s blog, Julian Omidi discusses the ethical arguments for and against animal euthanasia.

Animal overpopulation has been a significantly prevalent issue in the U.S. for the latter half of the century. Millions of cats and dogs are put down in animal shelters every year for lack of homes and responsible owners. There has been some conflict on whether or not euthanasia is the best solution, and if so, in what way it should be performed. Notorious animal rights group PETA turns out to be in support of euthanasia, which is quite clear in their official statement on the subject: “an intravenous injection of sodium pentobarbital administered by a trained professional is the kindest, most compassionate method of euthanizing animals.”

There are still U.S. facilities that utilize electrocution or decompression chambers to terminate animal lives, which are objectively more painful. Many argue these methods are outdated, and that using an intravenous injection is the most humane way to minimize suffering.

However, studies suggest that veterinarians who perform these procedures daily experience more depression and are even more likely to commit suicide than doctors. Nearly 1 in 10 will experience serious psychological distress as a result of their work, and some claim this number may even increase as they are called on to perform more and more euthanizations.

Dr Bruce Fogle, a veterinarian with almost 50 years of experience, says the hardest part of his job is to tell an owner their pet needs to be put down. But he does believe that it’s the best decision in most contexts: “some of the euthanasias that have stayed with me for years on are those that were absolutely justified.”

Cat and dog overpopulation is one of the major reasons there are so many euthanizations performed in the U.S. Whatever your ethical stance on euthanasia, remember to spay and neuter your pets, and help ease the burden of our dedicated veterinarians!

Be good to each other,

Julian Omidi

Animal Rights Activists Speak Out Against the Circus

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In today’s entry, Julian Omidi discusses recent criticisms of the circus industry.

Many believe that using animals for live entertainment is cruel and unnatural; others believe that as long as these animals are being treated humanely, it’s relatively harmless. In the past few months, activists across the country have been bringing attention to the suffering of circus animals and calling Americans to stop using live animal shows as a form of entertainment.

Earlier this month, American Eagle Outfitters pulled a T-shirt from stores that depicted a circus elephant. This recall was prompted by criticism from animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA.) Spokeswoman Stephanie Shaw claimed this was due to “abuses the elephants suffer when they are forced to perform in circuses,” and shortly after American Eagle released a statement clarifying that they “explicitly oppose the inhuman treatment of animals, and do not tolerate cruelty in the design, manufacturing, or testing of [our] products.”

Late last month, protesters gathered outside of a traveling circus in San Marcos, California in an attempt to dissuade potential customers from attending the show. Many individuals consider the circus to be a grotesque spectacle of animal cruelty and call for them to be banned. The USDA routinely performs inspections of these circuses, but activists say that’s not enough.

The week of July 8th, activists protested at the ShoppingTown Mall in DeWitt, NY to stop the upcoming Cole Bros. Circus from starting their show on the mall site. The group’s main concern was with the animal’s exposure to heat and humidity from performing on a hot pavement. However, Cole Bros. marketing director Randy Hales claimed that all of their animals are cared for properly and “steps are taken to ensure they have enough water and shade.”

These are just a few of the numerous examples of activist groups standing up to further animal welfare and human treatment around the world. Before you or your family attend a circus, try to be mindful of whether or not these animals are being treated ethically.

 

Be good to each other,

Julian Omidi

As More Companies Push for Animal Welfare Goals, What will Change?

Julian Omidi discusses recent pushes by large food conglomerates to use more ethical means to produce food for the masses.

It takes a lot to feed a nation. Especially when that nation is largely made up of those who consume foods made from animal byproducts. Recently, more companies have made headlines for stating they will make adjustments to their treatment of animals when making their products. Will this have a bigger impact? And will more companies follow suit?

Most recently, General Mills made a move to use cage-free eggs in their products. The company is a large producer of cereal, soups and other food products. The company announced that it supports “five freedom” for animals used in their foods. This includes the freedom from hunger, discomfort, pain, fear and the freedom to engage in normal behavior.

Other companies that have previously made this commitment were Starbucks, Nestle, Kellogg as well as other major food distributors. The FDA has been also trying to make broader changes in the cattle industry. They have changed their animal feed safety regulations, which offers guidelines on how animals should be fed on farms. With these changes, what will that mean for animals and industry?

It seems the increasing transparency created by social media and other communication outlets, companies have more pressure to manage their image in regards to the ethical treatment of animals used to create their products. The more companies that pledge to change their policy to go cage-free or offer animal free alternatives, the more the production of food will change. This then could make the lives of animals less cruel as they have in the past.

In an ideal society, we would push more towards non-animal food sources to ensure the survival of animals. However, industry and private interest will make this too difficult. Private citizens can make an effort on their own to limit or eliminate animal byproducts from their diet to help, but this can only go so far. Only time will see how other companies change their policies in the treatment of animals.

Be good to each other,

Julian Omidi

Julian Omidi is the co-founder of Animal Support, a nonprofit that advocates for animals throughout the world.