Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Giving Till It Doesn't Hurt-III

You know you’ve got it. Get your ass out of the mall, the Target, or that snarky little boutique head shop long enough to count your blessings, then send some of them where they will really make a difference.

Pt. 3--Man-On-Dog-(& Cat)-Love

(Being the third and last part of a multi-part gift guide for spreading joy and love.)

One of the more under-reported problems the U.S faces related to animal abuse has to do with the growing popularity of keeping exotic cats like tigers and lions as pets. It has become shockingly easy to buy a pet tiger cub bred in the U.S. They can be bought for as little as $200 in places, and there has been very little legislation put in place to address the problem. Although the Captive Wildlife Safety Act was passed this year to prohibit the pet trade commerce of exotic animals for, there is no outright ban on keeping them, and it is estimated that as many as 10-15,000 tigers are now kept as pets or by roadside zoos, compared to only about 5000 still left alive in the wild. As a result, the animals are raised in wholly inappropriate, abusive, and neglectful environments by people who, even when they mean well, doom them to lives of mental and physical stress, and they are often discarded like trash when the full weight of the responsiblity becomes apparent. Zoos, who guard the gene pools of their specimens like Tiffany jewelry, see no usefullness in these throw-away pets for breeding purposes, nor will they take on the burden of caring for these animals when they are already so strapped for funds and space to care for those they do have. And of course, the option of release into the wild is non-existent. The end for these cats is often euthanasia--if they're lucky--or a nightmare spiral down into successive abusive owners until they end up in some roadside zoo crouched into a tiny cage, maddened and malnourished until death frees them.

There can be no good reason for keeping an exotic animal if you aren't a professional with a good scientific reason, with access to knowledge and resources to ensure the animal is maintained in a healthy, psychologically enriched environment. First, these animals often have territories in the wild of several hundred square miles, and travel scores of miles in the course of a typical day. normal day's actvities. Second, there are so many homeless and needy dogs and cats in our own backyards that it is unconscionable to neglect them while buying and keeping wild animals. Third, there are some truly wonderful wild sanctuaries that have dedicated themselves to the enormously expensive and intensive task of taking in and caring for big cats and other animals who have been abused and mistreated, and if you truly love animals, there is a sanctuary out there for you to support, and these are some of the very best:

Sanctuaries for cats that have been kept by individuals, in roadside zoos, or circuses:
Big Cat Rescue--Firefox/Mozilla browsers may have trouble with this script.
International Exotic Feline Sanctuary--The animal behaviorists par excellence.
Oakhill Ctr For Rare & Endangered Species
--A genetic bank and breeding program, as well as a home, for rare animals. Did you know that the clouded leopard is the closest living relative to the extinct sabertoothed tiger?
Shambala Preserve--Founded by Tippi Hedren, who screamed so well thoughout Hitchcock's "The Birds". Tireless in rescuing and maintaining the health and dignity of big cats.
Tiger Haven--My personal favorite. My adoptee lion there is Kalahari, who as a youngster was so abused he almost died, but these folks saved him. As one of them said. "He's a sweet boy."

Sanctuary Watchdogs and Standardbearers
TAOS (The Association Of Sanctuaries)--Their motto is simple: "No Wild Pets!" They establish standards, and provide accreditation and support to sanctuaries that meet those standards. See their slide show on the site. It's incredibly moving.
American Sanctuary Association
--Their mission statement:"Organized to provide a more efficient means in which to find and identify quality facilities in which to place homeless, abused or abandoned animals, facilitate the exchange of information among animal caregivers, and to create public awareness of this national tragedy, ...(ASA) was formed."
Animal Centers of Excellence--ACE is an international accreditation program designed to guide and assist animal sanctuaries in reaching the highest standards of animal care possible.

Finding a pet
Petfinder--Locate pet shelters near you, find breed rescue info, see adoptable animals on-line, and place lost and found info about strays. A motherlode of information.
Pet Store Puppies and Puppy Mills--Yes, there are kitten mills, too. Learn about the abuses inherent in breeding and selling living beings as though they were durable goods, and why you shouldn't buy them that way, either.

Helping the unwanted
Alley Cay Allies--Provides education and supports the non-lethal reduction of the tens of millions of feral cats in the U.S. through a program of trap-neuter-return, the adoption of kittens young enough to be tamd, and the care of those in the wild by volunteers.

No comments: