Saving the Wild Parrots of New Jersey

 

This post first appeared on Care2.com

Alison Evans-Fragale was dumbfounded when she got a call from Lonely Grey Rescue bird sanctuary to say that PSE&G had dropped off 27 baby parrots who had been living in nests removed from utility poles in Englewood, NJ. Six of the babies were dead.

For the past decade Evans-Fragale, a nurse practitioner and founder of the Edgewater Parrots Society, a group that works to protect the birds, has had an amicable relationship with the power company. She said that she was always alerted before a nest teardown either in her town or in neighboring communities so that she could be on site to monitor the removal and safe handling of any babies.

“I just don’t understand why I wasn’t called in to help this time,” Evans-Fragale said. “This was such a needless and violent death for these little birds and it breaks my heart.”

In a June 2 Facebook post PSE&G wrote  “The nests atop our transformers and wires were affecting power at Englewood Hospital. We took every precaution to carefully rescue as many of the birds and eggs as possible.”

Power Companies Seeking a Way to Co-Exist with Parrots

While most local residents enjoy having these exotic birds in their backyards, the parrots clash with the power company because they build their nests on utility poles. Utility companies say that the nests can cause fires and power outages and for years have sought ways to co-exist with the parrots. Some companies felt that euthanizing the birds was the best option but that led to outrage from animal welfare groups.

“In my view killing is the first response of a limited mind,” Evans-Fragale said. “There’s always a humane way to deal with a problem – it may not be the easiest or the cheapest –but it’s the right thing to do.”

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Finding New Homes for Shelter Cats Could be a Click Away

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Mindi, a shy FIV-positive cat, was constantly passed over by visitors to the Cat Depot in Sarasota, FL. So when the shelter was accepted into the Jackson Galaxy Foundation Cat Pawsitive clicker training program earlier this year, the staff immediately enrolled Mindi. She’d been living at the shelter for nine months and after just two months of clicker training was placed into a loving home.

“Potential adopters would watch volunteers clicker training with Mindi and were excited to see her doing high fives, said Claudia Harden, director of communications at the shelter. “It was seeing how well she interacted with staff and volunteers that ultimately got her adopted.”

MindigivinghighfiveMindi gives a high five during a clicker training session at Cat Depot. Her new family is continuing this training to provide Mindi with positive reinforcement.

The Jackson Galaxy Foundation created the Cat Pawsitive program in 2016 to help shelter cats overcome the stress associated with shelter environments. Shelters apply for enrollment into the three-month training program, which includes training webinars and consultations with feline behavior experts.

The Cat Depot has been using clicker training informally for four or five years but with the launch of the Cat Pawsitive program, clicker training became part of daily life at the shelter. With the focus on hard-to-adopt cats, training sessions are conducted twice a day, five days a week. Of the nine cats enrolled in the program during the formal training session, eight have found homes.

“There’s no doubt that the Cat Pawsitive training program has helped place our cats into homes,” Harden said. “It sparks a conversation with potential adopters when they walk into cat pods (rooms) and see our cats participating in clicker training sessions.”

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Is it Fair or Healthy to Carry Small Dogs All the Time?

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My friend Joy sent me a photo of her 7-pound mini dachshund, Rosalie, hanging out in a front dog carrier. Rosalie is usually running or playing in her yard with her doggie siblings or walking on the beach with mom. On this day she was in the carrier for her safety because the family was hanging out at the Purina Woofstock event in San Juan, PR, where they were surrounded by people and large dogs.

Trainers say there are definitely times when small dogs need to be picked up and carried for their protection. For example when around large crowds of people or dogs, at gatherings when there are lots of children who could unintentionally hurt the dog, on long hikes or walks when a little dog might not have the stamina to go the full distance and when visiting stores or malls that allow small dogs.

joyandrosalieMini Dachshund, Rosalie, safely tucked inside a carrier at the Purina Woofstock event in San Juan, PR. At home, Rosalie enjoys running and playing in the yard with her siblings.

Problems occur, according to trainers, when owners start treating their small dogs like babies and carry them everywhere.

“Dogs were given four legs for a reason, they are supposed to walk,” said Eileen Haley of Second Chance Dog Training Services, Inc. in Bergen County, NJ. “By carrying a small dog everywhere you are depriving them of the opportunity for mental and physical stimulation because they are not getting a chance to sniff and explore.”

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A Welcoming Smile and Supportive Environment can Save Pets Lives

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In the more than 20 years that I’ve been writing about pet and animal welfare issues, I’ve heard from numerous people who were disappointed with their experience at local animal shelters. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) also hears from potential adopters frustrated at being denied the opportunity to provide loving homes to animals in need. They complain about rude treatment by staff at their local shelters and frustration when calls and e-mails to shelters aren’t returned.

It’s true that shelter staff and volunteers see terrible abuse of animals and they are understandably concerned about placing these pets back into bad homes. However, leading animal welfare organizations say this concern can lead to being overprotective and going overboard when it comes to regulating, requiring and screening. This results in potential adopters turning to less humane options to find an animal companion. There’s a movement within the animal welfare community that’s finding a middle ground with the realization that “a home that’s good if not perfect will be better for pets than an animal shelter.”

The “Adopters Welcome” manual and webinar series produced by the HSUS were designed to help shelters maximize adoptions by embracing members of the community and encouraging them to adopt while helping them succeed as pet owners. In addition, the ASPCA’s “Smile! You’re Saving Lives” webinar focuses on providing a positive service to clients in the interest of building great relationships and saving more lives. A growing body of research is suggesting that “open adoptions” done with less intrusive methods of pet adopter matchmaking are just as effective as, and in some cases even more successful than, those requiring potential adopters to jump through a lot of hoops.

So, what does an open adoption policy look like?

Open adoptions provide shelters with the opportunity to educate rather than judge potential adopters. The focus is on building partnerships and lifelong relationships, following up on adoptions and being a resource for families who adopt. When the Dakin Humane Society, with shelters in Springfield and Leverett, MA, launched its Open Adoption policy more than six years ago, it created a “culture of understanding and respect” for the human customers, coworkers and volunteers who come to the shelter. At Dakin communication with potential adopters is congenial and collaborative rather than bureaucratic and rule-bound.

Dakin Humane Society adapted an Open Adoption policy more than six years ago. 

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Not Every Pet Enjoys Living in a Classroom: Here’s What You Should Know

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Certified Humane Educator Doriane Lucia has fond memories of caring for pets in the classroom. In fact, she credits classroom fish and a caring fifth-grade teacher with fostering her love and compassion for animals.

“This experience was huge for me. I didn’t know years later this would become my life’s mission, but even if it hadn’t, it would still have taught me responsibility,” said Lucia, who received her Master’s degree in Humane Education from Cambridge College in Boston, Mass. and The Institute for Humane Education, and is a member of the Association of Professional Humane Educators.

When the Pet Care Trust began offering Pets in the Classroom grants in 2011, more than 500 teachers nationwide applied. Today, the grant program has issued close to 40,000 grants with an average of 50 students being impacted per grant. The grants are offered to public school, kindergarten through sixth-grade classes, and are intended to support pets or aquariums in the classroom.

A classroom pet can be fun and exciting for schoolchildren, but it also has real educational, leadership and character-building value, according to a 2015 studypublished by the American Humane Association (AHA). According to the AHA study, the most popular classroom pets were fish followed by guinea pigs, hamsters, bearded dragons and leopard geckos. Several teachers who responded to the survey said that they had more than one classroom pet, such as a “rabbit, hamster, fish, two turtles,” “fish and lizards,” and “Beta Fish and Dwarf Frogs.”

Bearded dragons made the list of popular classroom pets in an American Humane Association study.

Image credit: milkfactory via Flickr

Shelter Dogs and Special Needs Kids: A Match Made in Heaven

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Brook, a Rhodesian Ridgeback mix, was sitting in a high-kill shelter in Arizona with just two days to live when she was rescued by Janice Wolfe, founder, and CEO of Merlin’s Kids. The nonprofit organization rescues, rehabilitates, and trains shelter dogs to work as service dogs for children with autism and special needs, as well as to assist disabled veterans. After extensive training Brook returned Wolfe’s kindness by transforming the life of Julie, 21, who is developmentally delayed due to a premature birth.

Wolfe describes Brook as a “rock star,” a calm sweet dog with the perfect temperament for working as an emotional support service dog. Julie’s mom, Ellen, couldn’t agree more.

“Brook has given Julie a greater sense of confidence,” Ellen said. “They are always together and Brook definitely knows that it’s her responsibility to take care of Julie.”

Before being paired with Brook, Julie was afraid to go outside the house on her own. Now she and Brook take walks down the block or sit together in the yard. Julie has become more outgoing and enjoys speaking or singing in front of people.

“Brook has become an emotional support for all of us,” Ellen said. “I can’t believe that they almost put her to sleep. She is the love of our lives!”

Julie takes a selfie with Brook as he smothers her with kisses.

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It Takes a Community to Support Feral Cats: Here’s How You Can Help

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Twenty-six years ago the definition of feral cats wasn’t part of the national consciousness in the United States. Today, hundreds of nonprofit organizations across the country are managing feral cat colonies using the Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) method of control. Among them is Donna Moussa who runs the TNR program for Save the Animals Rescue Team II (STARTII) in Bergen County, NJ. Moussa got involved with the program after following a mother cat and her kitten into a neighbor’s backyard where she discovered more than 40 ferals lounging around the pool and hanging out in flower pots.

“I thought I would trap these cats and have them spayed and neutered and that would take care of the problem,” Moussa said. “Little did I know there were thousands of feral cats living in communities all over the county.”

Twelve years later Moussa and her team have trapped more than 3,000 feral cats, transported them to the spay/neuter clinic, and cared for them during recovery before returning them to their colonies. Feral cat advocates nationwide hail this method as the most humane way of managing colonies. According to numerous scientific studies—many conducted while monitoring feral cat colonies on college campuses—TNR improves the lives of cats, improves the relationship between feral cats and the people who live near them and over time decreases the number of cats in a colony.

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What Experts Have to Say About Invisible Fences for Dogs

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When walking around suburban neighborhoods in upstate, NY, I am struck at just how many dogs are confined by invisible fences.

There are many reasons dog owners choose to install electronic fences. For some it’s a financial decision—electronic fences tend to be a cheaper option. In other cases, homeowners associations or neighbors prohibit the installation of physical fencing. Whatever the reasons, dog owners install the fencing because they want their dogs to have the freedom to run and play in their yards.

Since positive motivation training and behavioral experts say it’s impossible to predict how any dog will react to electronic confinement, I wonder why so many families are willing to take a chance on their dog’s wellbeing. Positive Motivation Trainer Jenn Michaelis, the owner of SassyT Canine Academy in Westchester County, NY, believes that there is not enough information available about the negative impacts of electronic fencing on dogs. She discourages her clients from using electronic fencing and is happy to discuss alternatives with them. Sara Reusche, who is also a positive motivation trainer, and owner of Paws Abilities Dog Training, LLC in Rochester County, MN, also steers her clients away from invisible fencing.

Both trainers above help rehabilitate dogs who have been negatively impacted by electronic fences. In fact, Reusche said that “…sadly these cases make up a sizable chunk of her business.” And in most instances, the owners never connect their dogs’ out-of-the-ordinary behavioral problems with the recently-installed electronic fences. Some of these behavioral issues include dogs who have accidents in the house because they are terrified to go outside for fear of being shocked; dogs who are afraid to wear collars; previously friendly dogs who become aggressive toward people and other dogs; dogs who are afraid to go for walks and dogs who are afraid of any sound that resembles the warning beep on the shock collar. For example the beep from the microwave or the ping on a cell phone.

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