Friday, October 21, 2011

49 Dead in Ohio

If you are tender souled, avert your eyes. This is a tragic story, and this picture is heartbreaking. On October 20th, 2011 a gentleman in Ohio, and ex-Vietnam helicopter gunner under extreme distress, severely depressed, with no one to turn to (in his eyes) released 50 of his exotic animals and then shot himself in the head. Ohio, pressured by the Dear Friend of Michael Vick, that animal loving football hero, yes you guessed it, Wayne Pacelle the self-admitted Hero of Animals is being pushed to legislate in emergency session a total ban on private ownership of all exotics.

Ohio, Just Don't
49 Dead in Ohio
All I can see is this picture in my mind with clashing music looping over and over. Through the rage, and the tears, I keep seeing the pictures in my mind of the people I know who live in Ohio and other states who own exotic animals. Responsible private owners who will be punitively affected by a ban law, even tho their animals have never escaped, never caused any problems, were not stolen from the wild, are well kept, well loved, healthy members of the Family. Sure, they may be considered an oddball Family, but aren't all of our Families a little different? a little oddball? A little maladjusted? A little dysfunctional? I know mine is, and really... I wouldn't want it any other way ...

These are the things I know for certain:
  • Terry Thompson was a Vietnam Vet who was still struggling with his experience there.
  • He lived a relatively solitary life. He and his recently-divorced wife considered the animals as part of the family, as their "furry children."
  • He got in over his head, and had too many animals, and was having troubles caring for them all appropriately.
  • He recently was released from prison on a weapons charge, for ownership of unregistered weapons.
  • He was cited on neglect charges in April of 2005
  • in January of 2011 Joe A Schreibvogel of GW Exotic Animal Memorial Park offered to help Terry and the County by taking the animals and was refused his assistance by Sheriff Matt Lutz.
  • Feline Conservation Federation also offered to assist when Mr. Thompson was incarcerated, but was refused by the authorities.
  • The authorities on the scene were not properly trained in management of frightened large exotics and were self-admittedly "nervous" as reported by on-the-scene reporters.
  • Most of the animals were still on Mr. Thompson's private property.
49 animals were shot and killed, and at least one monkey was eaten by other predators. People are calling for a ban on all private ownership of exotics. But what people don't seem to realize is this: Just how far do you want to legislate? Will owning a pet lizard be OK? An African Grey parrot? A friend of mine is upset about the fact that big cats are privately owned, stating that "they should never have been taken from the wild", but she owns African Greys, which, according to one source, some 21% of the global population is from the wild. Why is this acceptable but owning big cats is not? So, will exotic birds be a part of this ban? Is it the size of the animal? Without private owners and private breeding facilities, the global population of the Bengal Tiger would be effectively extinct as a result of the small number of Bengals in the wild. Non sustainable populations = extinction. I'm not saying that everybody should have one or three, nor am I saying that this is a problem we, as a society, don't need to address. What I am saying is that if you push for a ban on private ownership, are you thinking about ALL the ramifications? Will snakes be legal to own? If you have a big cat and you've never ever gotten into any trouble, and your "really big kitty" never goes walk-about in the neighborhood sampling Eau de Poodle, and your kitty is healthy and happy and part of your Family, does anybody have the right to rip that animal away from its' loving home as a result of another person's mistakes? And all those legally kept animals whose owners don't have enough money to pony up brand new bells and whistles, and lawyers, what will we do with their animals? Will you put their animals in a cage? Animals who have never known that kind of hand's-off husbandry, who have only known sleeping on couches across Mommy's lap, or laying in bed with Daddy, wouldn't that be cruel? OR will we simply kill them all because there's "no room at the Inn" all across America at the Zoos and Sanctuaries? Most small towns -or states for that matter in today's economy- don't have the resources necessary to enforce new laws with new training of employees and all that is necessary legally to enact these kinds of "emergency ban laws", nor do they have the resources to fight legislative battles in court for these untrained employees and the mistakes they will undoubtably make. In today's economy, can we afford the tax dollars all these new legislative issues will cost?

Repeatedly people have shown the truth of HSUS' real agenda. (This article is a very good one by a member of the AVMA) HSUS is a radical animal rights organization with close ties to terrorist groups like PETA, ALF and ELF. But when it comes to animal welfare laws, it seems as if we just go knee jerk, and forget all we ever learned of critical thinking. We hear good ol' Wayne Pacelle decry the horror ! the tragedy! We need to ban all animal ownership (ooops! sorry, he means EXOTIC animal ownership, ALL animal ownership, that'll come later) to prevent this from ever happening again! But will it? After all, the ban that's being suggested is only against PRIVATE ownership. Zoos and Sanctuaries will be exempted. Even though over 80% of all the incidents of bites occur in Zoos or Sanctuaries. Private owners, as a general rule, know their animals' tolerances, and don't allow them to be pushed. Don't get me wrong, most Zoos and Sanctuaries are well run animal care facilities with passionate people who truly care for the welfare of their charges. Of course, these facilities also aren't the usual recipients of bite incidents.

So I suggest that we all grab tight hold of our common sense and THINK first before any of us-and any of our representatives- run off to pass new laws "to protect the animals". And furthermore, I offer the radical idea of enforcing the laws we currently have on the books regarding animal welfare, and the "laws of the land" such as "roaming at large". Make it across the board. Make it simple. All animals will be given adequate food, water, space to excersize, and size of containment according to their species' needs. Yes, factory farms will set up a hue and cry to this kind of radical simplistic common sense, and yes, this will probably affect the price of some animal food products, like meat and dairy. But isn't this really past due anyway? (Please click here for a very short explanation of "battery hens")

If our Country had had one solid piece of a law regarding animal welfare, this incident would have been taken care of last year and January before it got to this tipping point. What if all the Vietnam Vets had been offered intense help to readjust and re-assimilate into our society rather than ostracized? I wonder if Mr Thompson would have felt so alone if he had some kind of support group when he got home. What was Sheriff Lutz' reasoning to reject the two offers of help from reputable rescue organizations? If he had accepted their help, those animals wouldn't be dead today. Why are we listening to Wayne Pacelle? Tax the heck out of those scoundrels, and get them out of the lobbying business. Those 49 animals didn't have to die. But in the interest of justice, I pray that America doesn't wind up banning all responsible private owners from living their lives in the manner which they please, in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness all because one man, lost, lonely, sick at heart, made a terrible terrible choice.



OnceInaBlueMoon said...

"He got in over his head, and had too many animals, and was having troubles caring for them all appropriately."

This, sadly, makes the point. He wasn't equipped to properly house, feed nor care for these animals. His solitary life-style worked to his detriment. He KNEW he was in over his head and SHOULD HAVE sought assistance from the aforementioned exotic animal handlers rather than TRY to DO HIS BEST.

Society can't be blamed for the ills of an individual. RESPONSIBLE , QUALIFIED, EDUCATED exotic animal handlers couldn't possibly condone the manner in which
THESE animals were kept.

And as does happen frequently, the misdeeds of One can and does levy consequences on the masses. This situation isn't any different.

A distinction must be made between DOMESTICATED animals and EXOTIC animals.

Most people in the US don't license their 'traditional' house pets; don't neuter nor spay their pets. Shelters are wrought with discarded, unwanted domesticated animals. IF SOCIETY as a whole can't adhere to the fundamental responsibilities of properly care-taking s domesticated pet, do you truly expect these same people to be responsible exotic animal aficionados? Expect them to be MORE disciplined when many already IGNORE governing regulations of ownership?

Large exotic animals do not belong in anyone's "back yard" no matter the acreage.

Additionally, there are very FEW licensed Exotic Animal Breeders in the US, NONE of which engage in the production and sale of predatory cats! If the licensed professionals steer clear of the expense and requirements to raise & breed this class of exotics, why would anyone condone the ownership and potential breeding by a layperson?

Should a sugar glider be banned? MAYBE. At the very least, ownership needs to be regulated.

Additionally, the IMPORT of most exotics is highly regulated, yet, hundreds of people actively SEEK means to skirt the regulations; cut corners in transportation; neglect basic care in the interest of higher returns; and don't care one iota as to whether or not the buyer is EQUIPPED nor QUALIFIED to handle and care for the animal.

Don't want the ownership of exotics banned? Then harass your friends & neighbors who own exotics into obtaining LEGAL acquisition regardless of COST; PROPER licensing; proper housing; proper food; proper veterinary care.

In a nutshell....
Govern yourselves or your Government will do it for you.

As an aside....
May Terry Thompson find the Peace and Solace he so desperately sought.

Kat Wolfdancer said...

Actually, you are making my point for me with one noticeable exception. I don't believe anybody has the right to dictate how anyone ELSE should live in a responsible manner. You seem to think it is acceptable for you (and HSUS) to dictate how other people live. I believe in the Bill of Rights, in the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness without undue restrictions to personal responsibility. If we can own guns responsibly, why can't we own exotic pets? And where will you draw the line? Just big cats? How about llamas? Parrots? Snakes? Tarantulas? Bengal cats?

If we, as a Society, had common sense animal welfare laws in place, this never would have happened. As soon as he got over his head, the 2 reputable sanctuaries and the many other private individuals who were also in the wings helping would have come in and taken the animals, and none of them would be dead now. Sheriff Lutz refused any assistance.

I sure would like to know his reasoning. Did he think he "knew how to handle it"? Was it pride and stubbornness motivating his denial of assistance?

And Society CAN be held responsible in this case. We should have passed across-the-board animal welfare laws LONG ago, but we are picky about which animals get to suffer, and which animals don't. Chickens can suffer. Dogs are not allowed to. (there's a whole 'nother post about THAT, about responsibly owning ANY pet and about treating animals as commodities rather than fellow creatures.) Responsible qualified educated exotic owners DIDN'T condone the treatment of these animals, and stepped up to the plate to help, and WERE REFUSED BY THE AUTHORITIES. What part of that is NOT Society's responsibility?

There should be no distinction between exotic and domestic. There are too many gray areas. The same people who regularly dump their dogs and cats don't have exotic pets. Large exotic pets, as long as they are NOT stolen from the wild, as long as they are treated well according to the applicable basic animal welfare laws, as long as they do not roam free, are properly contained, and their basic (food, water, shelter & room to excersize) needs are being met, belong where they are loved.

I DO harrass my friends into keeping their animals responsibly. The people I know with exotics keep them in beautiful condition in spacious exciting environments with toys and fun games to engage their minds. But the ban laws that HSUS is pushing will not allow anyone to "govern themselves". HSUS wants all animal use of any kind to be made illegal. I think it's stupid law making to punish the people who are doing it right for the misdeeds of one. ESPECIALLY when, in this case, help was offered in abundance, and was refused by the very people who claim they killed those animals to "keep the public safe." They never would have been loose if the authorities, our Government, hadn't dropped the ball, yet you are saying we should trust that Government to know what's right for the animals? I think not.

OnceInaBlueMoon said...

"I don't believe anybody has the right to dictate how anyone ELSE should live...I believe in the Bill of Rights...without undue restrictions to personal responsibility."

The Bill of Rights DOES DICTATE how people should live & conduct themselves.

"If we, as a Society, had common sense animal welfare laws in place, this never would have happened."

These laws ARE in place. People neglect them in the pursuit of their own fulfillment, regardless the effects of those actions have on others, animals included.

"Responsible qualified educated exotic owners DIDN'T condone... and WERE REFUSED BY THE AUTHORITIES. What part of that is NOT Society's responsibility? "

None of it is Society's responsibility. It was Terry Thompsons' responsibility & when he failed to meet it, HE forced the hand of his local authoritative agencies. I didnt. YOU didnt. HE DID.

"There should be no distinction between exotic and domestic....and their basic...needs are being met, belong where they are loved."

Not entirely. BASIC needs being met does NOT make for a healthy, life. It does afford an EXISTENCE.

It takes more, much more than the meeting of basic needs to make a "life". Many zoo animals whose basic needs are met live a deplorable EXISTENCE.

BTW...not once did I praise the HSUS. They have their qualities and their demons. A necessary evil? Perhaps. That isnt the discussion here.

"I think it's stupid law making to punish the people who are doing it right for the misdeeds of one."

Your opinion is heard. Mine differs, and I wont call yours stupid.

"... They never would have been loose if the authorities, our Government, hadn't dropped the ball"

They never would have been set loose and killed had TERRY THOMPSON met (dare I say exceeded?!?) the root requirements of harboring such WILDLIFE.

The loss of these wonderful creatures is the responsibility of one man & could have been PREVENTED by one man: Terry Thompson.

He was ALLOWED to exceed his abilities due to a)other exotic animal "owners" who thrust their unwanted animals upon Terry, a man they manipulated into taking on more responsibility than he was equipped to handle and b)the countless Exotic animal dealers who SOLD him animals he was ill equipped to care for.

Thus, it wasn't SOCIETY who created this problem- it was TERRY and the Exotic animal industry whose hunger for $$ allowed them to ignore rationale.

As for regulating the keeping of Exotic animals, I've worked many decades at an Exotic animal sanctuary, a place where unwanted & frequently seized animals end up. It isn't the ideal setting for ANY of the animals, however, when FREE SOCIETY bites off more than they can chew, they EXPECT there to be someone or something to relieve them of their responsibility be it their Government or YOU.

THAT NOTION; the entitlement that pervades society; the ease with which one can ignore personal responsibility is evident in every city & every state across this Nation.

If TERRY and the multitudes like him accepted personal RATIONAL responsibility , perhaps situation such as this AND the existence of HSUS might not be a necessary evil.

In Terry's defense, I did not know the man nor his circumstances. I shall presume YOU do since you wrote so passionately about KNOWING his inability to deal with the after-effects of Vietnam and the other demons that ruled his world. I shall make no claims as to KNOWING WHY this tragic event transpired.

I will vote & lobby to HELP ensure situations such as this never have the opportunity to spin out of control.

Should my decision to do so effect the plethora of exotic animal owners across this country; you have PLENTY of TIME to take the necessary actions to meet AND EXCEED all currently existing regulations so that perhaps, should the time come to defend your stewardship of exotics, you shall succeed in retaining them.

Kat Wolfdancer said...

We will simply have to agree to disagree, and I am grateful that you are not in position to legislate against me and my furry Family. When you responded to my Bill of Rights part, you only marked part of it: It's the WITHOUT UNDUE RESTRICTIONS TO PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY part that that you ignored that seems to me to be the crust of the biscuit.

The same sheriff who glowed in the limelight told rescuers a year ago that "all was well, and the animals were being taken care of properly." There is much to this story which is NOT being made public. I know I do not have all the facts, and I am positive that you do not, either.

HSUS is not a "necessary evil", they are just evil. They should never be allowed to use tax deferment in order to lobby against personal responsible behavior.

Thank you for your responses. Hopefully, you can tune in to other non animal welfare posts. I also write about plants! They don't seem to have nearly the same personal responsibility issues.:~) Blessings to you.


OnceInaBlueMoon said...

"We will simply have to agree to disagree, ... It's the WITHOUT UNDUE RESTRICTIONS TO PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY part that that you ignored..."

Au contraire:

"I don't believe anybody has the right to dictate how anyone ELSE should live...I believe in the Bill of Rights...without undue restrictions to personal responsibility."

"The Bill of Rights DOES DICTATE how people should live & conduct themselves."

Differences of opinion 'make the World go 'round". The HSUS wasn't intended to be part of my discussion, nor do I condone the majority of their practices. Much like a militia, the HSUS serves a function; one hopes to never have the need it be called upon; but one that exists out of necessity albeit good or bad.

As for this tragedy, glorious creatures once again paid the ultimate price due to mankind's' ineptitude.

I do not profess to have known Terry nor the circumstances which predicated this event.

What I have gleaned from the plethora of information that flooded various media outlets is this:

A man, not professionally trained in the husbandry of large, predatory, tradtionally deemed "exotic and/or wild" animals, allowed his love for these animals to become the focal point of his exist for reasons only the rest of us can ASSUME.

In so doing, he greatly exceeded his ability to properly provide for them.

That failure, coupled with factors surmised, led to a situation that resulted in the despicable deaths of these once magnificent beasts.

If the expression of public outrage after-the-fact has any effect on the future prevention of a similar occurrence, then perhaps this tragedy will serve as a catalyst for BOTH stringent regulations AND stringent animal welfare laws coupled with mandatory education & subsequent licensing for those who prove they are qualified to take on the immense responsibility of providing for these remarkable creatures.

It is my OPINION that a vast majority of people in this country, currently in possession of large, predatory exotics have neither the education (Biology, Zoology, Microbiology, Zoonosis, Chemistry, Animal Husbandry, Nutrition,Habitat development) nor the financial resources to meet or exceed the requirements of individual species. If I am wrong, and I PRAY I am, then situations such as that in Ohio will NEVER reoccur.

"...and I am grateful that you are not in position to legislate against me and my furry Family."

That being said, since I do not reside in Oregon, you are safe! Conversely, since I know not of you, I shall give you the benefit of the doubt that you have the educational background and financial means to properly provide for your (exotic?) "furry family".

Lastly, Oregon seems to have some very lax laws in terms of exotic animals:

Oregon State Laws Governing Private Possession of Exotic Animals
"...As used in ORS 609.305, 609.309, 609.319 to 609.335 and 609.992, "exotic animal" means:

(1) Any lion, tiger, leopard, cheetah, ocelot or any other cat not indigenous to Oregon, except the species Felis catus (domestic cat);

(2) Any monkey, ape, gorilla or other nonhuman primate;

(3) Any wolf or any canine not indigenous to Oregon, except the species Canis familiaris (domestic dog); and

(4) Any bear, except the black bear (Ursus americanus).

• OR. REV. STAT. §609.319 - Permit required to keep exotic animal.

No person may keep an exotic animal in this state unless, before acquiring the animal, the person possesses, or has applied for and not been refused or have had revoked or suspended, a valid State Department of Agriculture permit for such animal issued pursuant to ORS 609.335. No person may keep an exotic animal in this state for more than 30 days after the expiration, revocation or suspension of such a permit.

Perhaps strengthening these laws would be a good place to begin if you want to ensure continued stewardship for yourself and that of your friends.

Kat Wolfdancer said...

It has been an enlightening discussion with you.

Oregon - unlike many other states - does not need to strengthen our animal ownership laws. Our laws are NOT lax. You need a permit to own exotic animals. You must apply for the permit, and will be refused the permit if you have any abuse or neglect charges against you. We do NOT have a problem here. You will not find ravening hordes of exotic animals roaming the countryside. So using tax dollars to change adequate and common sense laws for no discernible reason is wasteful and irresponsible. "OR. REV. STAT. §609.319 - Permit required to keep exotic animal." That's pretty simple. Own an exotic animal, you must apply for a permit, and allow for inspections by state animal welfare officers. I don't exactly understand how that could be construed as "lax".

As for HSUS, it serves only one purpose: Power for HSUS and the ultimate end result of abolishing all private ownership of animals. That is not a "necessary evil", that's just evil. It does not exist out of necessity, it exists out of greed and need for power over other people's lives and choices. The ASPCA exists out of necessity, and THAT organization actually does what it says it does, without the subterfuge which is the backbone of HSUS. HSUS' professed goals are online for the asking. I'm not making this up. The good folks at HSUS have stated their goals publically. It just seems that some people only hear the rhetoric and react to the emotionally compromised graphic pictures and cannot think critically. (I am not referring to you, it's rather obvious that you are a critical thinker, even if we strongly disagree on this subject)

So to reiterate, I believe that if a person has the knowledge and wherewithall to own an exotic animal, they should be allowed to own any animal they wish. In the Ohio case, I think Sheriff Lutz should be held personally responsible. He refused help on two separate occasions, on the basis that there was no problem at the facility, and based on HIS WORD, the assistance which would have saved those animals' lives was refused. That is a crime.

By the way, I do not own exotic animals. I have the standard dogs-cats-goats-chickens and ducks. All my animals are legal as "domestic". They also never run at large. When off my property, they are caged or leashed. When on my property, they are contained. They are well socialized, mostly trained, well kept, and well loved. However, I strongly believe in Martin Niemöller's famous statement:

When the Nazis came for the communists, I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats, I remained silent; I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews, I remained silent; I wasn't a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

I will fight to the death for freedom, even when it does not affect me personally.