by Jennifer Hillman and Tamar Puckett
Giving voice to animal concerns is the foundation of PAWS’ work. Since its inception in 1967, PAWS has been a leader in animal advocacy, educating toward an end to overpopulation, exploitation and cruelty. While PAWS today also provides direct care to companion and wild animals, we’ve never lost sight of our roots. Our advocates continue to move forward an agenda of compassion for all animals.
Educating the public about the plight of circus animals remains a PAWS priority. Our message is clear: Wild animals belong in the wild.
Chained or caged for most of their lives, performing animals suffer from physical and psychological deprivation. Traveling animal acts equal extreme cruelty, and represent a public safety hazard. They also run counter to what should be an inherent human respect for wild animals. PAWS teaches children about the complex, fascinating lives and social structures of wild animals—the counterpoint to tigers forced to jump through fire and bears made to ride bicycles.
"It's important to reinforce to children that the tricks they see performed in circuses are not natural behaviors for these animals,” says Sheridan Thomas, PAWS' humane educator. "When they realize this, most children recognize that animals are not well-treated in the circus."
In October, PAWS staff members and dozens of volunteers joined other area animal organizations to form a significant presence outside Key Arena, where Sterling and Reid, the circus with the most violations of the Animal Welfare Act and other cruelty statutes, was allowed to perform.
Repeatedly, Seattleites’ have shown Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus, the best-known traveling circus in the United States, that they don’t support circuses with animal acts. With dwindling audience numbers reaching an all time low of 24,000 in 2001, Ringling Bros. chose to move to the Tacoma Dome in September, and once again, PAWS was there.
PAWS' creative and peaceful strategy—dressing as clowns to engage the public with its message about the tragedy of circus animals' lives—has touched many. One circus attendee writes, "After being handed a brochure at the entrance to the circus, I was a little uneasy. But your representative was friendly and not belligerent. I read the material during intermission and after thinking about it and observing the animals, I am outraged by what I saw. Thank you for being there. I've further tried to explain to my kids what I learned…you made a difference." The success of our campaign is also evidenced by the number of requests we receive from animal welfare organizations around the country wanting to replicate our campaign and circus educational materials. We are confident the change in public attitude represents a growing respect for wild animals. We hope it’s the tide that turns against this cruel form of "entertainment."
Through education and legislation, PAWS’ advocates are working diligently to end the plight of wild and exotic animals kept as pets. Wild animals belong in the wild. Whether wild-caught or captive-bred, they possess innate social, physical and psychological needs that humans cannot address. Many animals that would naturally live in colonies are kept as single pets, isolated from their own species. Many grow so large that their owners cannot afford to feed them adequately, so they suffer from hunger and malnutrition. To minimize the risk of serious harm to humans, painful surgeries to remove claws and fangs are frequently performed, and animals are often housed in unsuitable environments—basements, garages and small cages.
One resident of an eastern Washington community, a PAWS supporter, has a neighbor who keeps an African lion and a tiger in a cramped cage in her backyard, unprotected from the elements. The animals are not fed regularly and they roar throughout the night. "It was 17 degrees here at 7 a.m. yesterday, 20 degrees as of this moment," reads one email from the supporter. "Wind is blowing from the north directly at the animals. I can’t fathom how these animals must feel as the snow begins to fall."
Wild animals kept as pets also present risks to human health and safety. According to Dr. John Huckabee, PAWS wildlife veterinarian, “Behavioral changes, lack of fear from habituation to human contact, and unpredictability—coupled with poor care, inadequate nutrition, improper housing and abuse—can lead to tragic results for both the owner and the animal.”
PAWS drafted legislation (HB 1151) to ban the private possession of wild and exotic animals in Washington State, and we’re hopeful it will be approved by the State Legislature this legislative session (read more in sidebar on page 10).
Central to PAWS’ mission is an end to animal overpopulation. Although the euthanasia rate at shelters in general has decreased considerably since the 1960s, a great deal of work remains. Every year, between 8 and 10 million cats and dogs enter U.S. shelters—and sadly, 4 to 5 million of them are killed. This statistic is not surprising considering that one pair of cats and their unaltered offspring can result in 420,000 kittens in seven years, and one female dog and her unaltered offspring can translate to 67,000 puppies in six years.
Says Kay Joubert, director of PAWS' Companion Animal Services: "Companion animal overpopulation is a problem of overwhelming proportions that is largely preventable if people would spay and neuter their animals—and adopt from shelters rather than purchase from breeders or pet stores."
PAWS was instrumental in King County's 1992 passage of Ordinance 123, which requires all shelter animals to be altered before adoption. In the eight years that followed 123’s implementation, the lives of an estimated 30,789 cats and dogs were saved, at a savings to taxpayers of more than $2 million. King County today continues to experience a savings in animals’ lives and taxpayers’ money as a result of their proactive policies.
PAWS also assisted King County in developing breeder-certification guidelines as part of Ordinance 123. Commercial breeders—or "puppy mills" —and irresponsible "backyard" breeders who supply the demand for purebred dogs and cats perpetuate pet overpopulation, don’t always pay attention to genetic health problems of breeds, and are notorious for neglecting the animals in their care. The guidelines limit breeding, require annual licensing and reduce license fees for altered dogs and cats. Companion animals are better protected as a result of these guidelines, that enforce responsible pet guardianship. PAWS monitors the living conditions of animals for sale at pet stores and breeder facilities through investigation, public involvement and cooperation with law enforcement.
Farm animal abuses are spread throughout the meat, dairy and egg industries. Cows, pigs, chickens and other farm animals suffer greatly. PAWS’ outreach and education programs emphasize the importance of our lifestyle and dietary choices and how those choices effect the lives of billions of animals every year. PAWS routinely organizes classes to inform people about the realities of factory farming, the impact of the human diet on the lives of animals, and practical ways to move toward a more compassionate lifestyle. One recent PAWS campaign encouraged prominent Seattle-area restaurants to remove veal from their menus. The veal calf represents one of the more distressful examples of factory farming. These calves spend their short lives chained by the neck in a crate purposely built too small for them to turn around. This confinement is designed to keep their muscles soft, creating tender meat. After 16 weeks, the calves are slaughtered. In response to PAWS’ campaign, more than a dozen Seattle-area restaurants to date have signed a pledge to stop serving veal.
PAWS’ receives hundreds of calls from people who have witnessed animal neglect and abuse and want to know what they can do. Last year, advocates responded to more than 500 calls. The extent of the neglect is astounding. Common stories are of dogs chained or tethered all day every day or left outside for long periods without shelter. Other calls include cats poisoned with antifreeze, “nuisance” wildlife shot or scalded with boiling water, farm animals beaten with a baseball bat, cases of veterinary malpractice, and breeders selling sick and dying animals to the unsuspecting public. PAWS works to empower people by providing information on what to do if they witness abuse. We serve as liaisons between members of the public and law enforcement and assist law enforcement agencies and prosecutors dealing with animal cruelty charges.
PAWS continues to make significant strides in animal advocacy. Through advocacy and education, our message is compassion. We hope that young and old alike will gain the knowledge and understanding to make this a more humane world. The support of a public increasingly committed to animal welfare inspires and energizes us as we continue to speak passionately and loudly for those who have no voice.
by Jennifer Hillman
PAWS advocates have been working for the past 3 years on a bill that would ban the private possession of wild and dangerous animals such as tigers, bears, wolves, lions, non-human primates, crocodiles and venomous snakes in Washington State.
House Bill 1151 was granted a hearing before the House Judiciary Committee on January 31. PAWS provided factual and compelling evidence detailing the issues of animal cruelty, public safety and human health risks involved with keeping wild animals as “pets.” On February 25th, the House Judiciary Committee unanimously passed the bill out of their committee. On March 12th, in a huge victory for PAWS, the State House of Representatives passed HB 1151 by a vote of 60-34! Advocates will now begin the process again in the Senate and hope for full passage by the end of April!
In addition to our work on HB 1151, PAWS is helping to support the efforts led by the Humane Society of the United States to prevent the repeal of I-713, the citizen’s initiative that banned the use of body-gripping traps in Washington State. Currently, the Senate has approved a measure that would repeal the initiative and it is now critical that SSB 5179 be stopped in the House. Each year, PAWS advocates track other animal related legislation and offer testimony and grassroots support where necessary.
If you are a Washington State resident, please help pass HB 1151 by calling your State Senators to urge their support. To find out who represents you, go to www.leg.wa.gov. For more information and to be kept up to date on the continuing progress, sign up to be on our Legislative email alert list by going to www.paws.org and clicking on Sign Up to Get Informed.
by Tamar Puckett
PAWS has worked diligently in the City of Edmonds for the past two years to achieve a mandatory spay/neuter policy that requires all Edmonds shelter animals to be altered prior to adoption from the City’s contracting animal shelter. Our efforts have finally paid off! On December 17, 2002, the Edmonds City Council passed the Protect Edmonds’ Pets Spay/Neuter Ordinance.
Our work in Edmonds began in 2001 when Edmonds City Council Member, Michael Plunkett, requested PAWS ’ assistance in drafting a spay/neuter ordinance for the city. The Edmonds City Council debated this ordinance in a series of public hearings during the fall and winter of 2001 and 2002. Although Edmonds’ citizens demonstrated widespread public support for a spay/neuter law in their city, the Council ultimately failed to pass the ordinance by a 4-3 vote.
Determined not to give up, Council Member Plunkett and PAWS formed the Protect Edmonds’ Pets Initiative Campaign in the spring of 2002. The campaign consisted of an all-volunteer petition drive to collect enough signatures from Edmonds voters in favor of a city-wide spay/neuter ordinance. Thanks to the efforts of a dedicated group of volunteer signature-gatherers, nearly 5,300 signatures were collected from Edmonds voters—enough to put the spay/neuter issue on the Edmonds ballot. Due to the number of signatures and the high amount of public support, the City Council decided to forego the election and pass the initiative.
This is an historic event for the entire Puget Sound region! Now all but one shelter in Puget Sound alters its shelter animals prior to adoption. The Everett Animal Shelter in Everett, WA, is the only shelter left in the region that continues to release unaltered animals into the community. PAWS Advocacy and Outreach staff has been working in Everett to get spay/neuter legislation passed there. Soon, Puget Sound will be one of the largest metropolitan areas in the U.S. that spays and neuters all of its shelter animals prior to adoption!