Marine Mammals and Birds Stranded on Beaches Expected to Increase by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and sealMarine mammals stranded on beaches are expected to increase over the next 3 to 4 months. One sensitive location for migratory sea birds and marine mammal strandings is the North Channel area in Venice/Marina Del Rey.

Lifeguards have reported as many as 50 free roaming dogs at any one time in this area. Free roaming dogs pose a significant risk to the health and safety of these animals. All Angelenos are reminded they must comply with the City’s Leash Law. LA Animal Services is increasing patrols in the Venice Beach area and will cite leash law violators.

Recently a reported hypothermic seal attempting to beach at the North Channel area was forced to retreat into the ocean by over 20 free roaming dogs. Rescue efforts were thwarted by citizens who allow their dogs to run free in violation of the leash law.

Two years ago, dogs prevented a domoic sea lion from beaching, chasing her into the water each time she tried. The animal ultimately drowned. Domoic causes seizures and disorientation, if a sea lion is not allowed to beach, it will most likely drown.

Marine Animal Rescue has rescued over 50 marine mammals so far in 2008, and this number is inceasing weekly.

The majority of the birds rescued are Oiled Grebe’s. Grebe’s hips are placed so far back on their body that they cannot move well on land and become easy targets for playful or aggressive dogs. Harbor Seals and Elephant Seals cannot climb well which explains why these animals are seldom seen on the rocks; they need the beach.

Dogs are susceptible to diseases (Leptospirosis or Bruceloss) when they come in contact with Sea Lions. Sea Lions have been known to inflict fatal bites to dogs.

For 20 years, Marine Animal Rescue volunteers, working in concert with LA Animal Services, has come to the aid of entangled or beached whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions and sea birds along the California coast. Marine Animal Rescue volunteers have rescued thousands of marine animals. For more information on Marine Animal Rescue visit: http://www.whalerescueteam.org/.

Urgent Action Needed for Kangaroos in California by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and kangaroos
Help stop legislation that would allow kangaroos to be killed in even greater numbers to supply soccer cleats to Californians

Senate Bill 880, a bill that would allow the sale of kangaroo skins and body parts in the state of California, is sailing through the legislative process. Sadly, it has now passed the Assembly Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee and moves to the Assembly for a floor vote. This means that the kangaroos still need your help. So even if you have already taken action on this issue, please take this opportunity to speak out one more time in opposition to SB 880.

If this bill passes it would erase a law that was implemented in 1970 to protect kangaroos by prohibiting the sale of their skins. A similar bill passed the legislature last session that reversed this protection for alligators, allowing their skins to be sold in California. It is important that the same fate does not befall the kangaroos.

Remind Your State Legislator of these Kangaroo Facts:
Kangaroos are not farmed. They are taken from the wild in Australia, and exist only in Australia.

Kangaroos are shot at night by hunters. Hunters are not always able to distinguish between kangaroos who are “approved” to be killed and others who are endangered. In Queensland, Australia, the Western Grey Kangaroo is not allowed to be killed, but it can be mistaken for the Eastern Grey that is allowed to be hunted.

The existing law that would be changed by this bill was made to protect certain “look-alike” species, so that Californians do not unwittingly contribute to the extinction of a species.

If a kangaroo that is killed is a mother with a baby in her pouch, the baby is taken out and killed by a heavy blow to the head (according to the Australian Code of Practice). Similar methods are used in Canada’s seal hunt; both California and Federal laws prohibit the sale of seal products from Canada because of the cruel killing methods used.

According to official Australian government statistics, kangaroo populations continue to decline and are now the lowest they have been in over a decade. Current populations are well below half of what they were in 2001. (Source: Sustainable Wildlife Industries, Dept of the Environment and Heritage, Canberra, 2006). Reintroduction of the trade in kangaroo skins into California would be disastrous, as there are already too few kangaroos to meet the industry’s demands.

SB 880 recently was modified (amended) in a way that appears at first glance to place a maximum limit on the number of kangaroos that could be killed in a given year. However, the new wording does not provide any real protection and, in reality, could allow kangaroos to be killed in even greater numbers to supply soccer cleats to Californians.

For more information on SB 880 visit:

http://www.leginfo.ca.gov/pub/07-08/bill/sen/sb_0851-0900/sb_880_bill_20070710_amended_asm_v96.html

Wile E. Neighbors by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and coyoteWildlife experts commend the city of Los Angeles’ No-kill policies, stating such policies are rare among animal-control agencies in the United States. No-Kill policies typically apply only to dogs and cats. But LA Animal Services is applying its “reverence for life – No-Kill” philosophy to all animals: companion pets, wildlife, farm animals, and exotics. All of which LA Animal Services rescues in large numbers every year.

“Los Angeles is typically one of the more progressive agencies,” said John Hadidian, director of the Humane Society’s urban wildlife program. “I consider… [No-Kill for Wildlife] a welcome sign that others might follow soon.”

Today, the LA Times ran an op-ed piece to explain our wildlife policy, especially as it relates to coyotes:http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-boks25jan25,0,786755.story?coll=la-news-comment-opinions

Wile E. neighbors
Killing off coyotes and other L.A. fauna could actually make life worse for humans.
By Ed Boks, ED BOKS is the general manager of Los Angeles Animal Services

January 25, 2007
HUMANS NEARLY exterminated the wolf in the last century, but coyotes have proved to be real survivors. They’re now the principal wild canine in California, despite man’s best efforts — trapping, shooting, poisoning — for 150 years. Harried, dislocated and hunted, coyotes nonetheless flourish. And now, like a couple of L.A. hipsters, a pair of urban coyotes have started prowling the neighborhoods around trendy Melrose Avenue, 3rd Street and the Grove.

The locals are alarmed, dialing up animal control and their city councilman to report the sightings and ask, worriedly, are these animals a threat? Can’t something be done to move them?

In many parts of the city, a coyote sighting doesn’t rate a turned head, let alone a call to the City Council. But they aren’t typically spotted in this densely developed part of town. So how’d they get there? One theory is that a good samaritan found them injured and nursed them back to health before they escaped. Another is that they came in unaware in the back of a truck. It is also possible that they simply walked there looking for water. After all, under all this concrete, L.A. is still a desert that many forms of wildlife call home. Clever coyotes might be able to walk the mile or two from the Hollywood Hills, crossing the boulevards under the cover of darkness.

Some people, who believe we can isolate ourselves from our wild surroundings, find such wildlife a nuisance that should be removed. But it’s not that easy. California regulations say a trapped coyote must be either euthanized or immediately released on site. Remarkably, the rules allow sick or injured coyotes to be taken for rehabilitation, but healthy ones must be killed if not released then and there.

Given the unusual circumstances of our midtown coyotes, Los Angeles Animal Services has asked the California Department of Fish and Game for a special dispensation to allow us to attempt to trap this pair and release them back into the wild.

Animal Services has a unique no-kill policy toward wildlife, including coyotes, and for good reason. Killing coyotes has the unintended consequence of producing more coyotes, not fewer. Mother Nature provided them with a powerful survival mechanism: Smaller social group size increases the food-per-coyote ratio, and this food surplus biologically triggers larger litters and higher litter survival rates.

Even if we wanted to trap or kill all the coyotes in a designated area, history shows the vacancy won’t last. Coyotes, like the rest of nature, abhor a vacuum. Larger litters rebuild the population and, with no rivals to keep them at bay, coyotes from the surrounding areas move right in. The end result of these futile eradication efforts is always the same: The area is quickly overrun with new, and often more, coyotes.

Coyotes — once largely confined to the northwestern corner of the continental U.S. — can now be found in L.A.’s Griffith Park and New York’s Central Park, in snowy Alaska and sultry Florida. Threatened by human expansion, they find new homes wherever it is convenient.

Because our expanding cities keep eating up habitat, we’re destined to live with the urban (or suburban) coyote. But that shouldn’t be too much trouble. Coyotes are afraid of humans and almost never attack them. The most reliable estimates assert that there have been fewer than 300 recorded coyote attacks that resulted in human injuries, most involving small children. There are about 3 million children bitten by dogs every year, so a child is considerably more likely to be hurt by the family pet.

That family pet might also lure coyotes — either as prey or as a mate. Unspayed female dogs in heat will attract male coyotes, and likewise unneutered male dogs can be lured by the scent of a female coyote. There have been cases of such a lothario being killed by males in the coyote pack. Fixing your dog fixes this part of the problem. But small dogs and cats are particularly vulnerable to attacks by hungry coyotes and should be kept indoors whenever feasible.

Coyotes are smart, fast and agile — they can sprint up to 40 mph and have been known to scale chain-link fences. They will take what they can get — pet food, garbage, even fruit that’s fallen off trees — day or night.

If you don’t like your local coyotes, remember this: An area with coyotes is never overrun with rodents — a lesson learned by Klamath County, Ore., in 1947. After attempting to eradicate their coyote population, they soon found themselves infested by rodents, experiencing the poetic truth that you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

NYC Animal Care and Control: New Name, New Face, New Philosophy

The Satya Interview with Ed Boks – January/February 2004

Ed Boks and no killUntil recently, New York’s animal shelter system, formerly known as the Center for Animal Care and Control (CACC), was notorious: its adoption numbers were abysmal, it was plagued by rumors of mismanagement, and had the unfortunate reputation of euthanizing animals deemed “unadoptable” soon after arrival, leaving little time for animal guardians to find their lost loved ones.

All that will soon change if its new Executive Director, Ed Boks, has his way. The first thing Boks did was change its name to NYC Animal Care and Control (AC&C) to better express his goal of putting the “care” back into NYC’s shelter system. Boks aims to up the adoption rate of homeless animals, and ultimately, make New York a “no-kill” city. Fresh from his success at turning around Phoenix, Arizona’s shelter system, Boks brings his know-how and compassion here to the Big Apple.

Lawrence Carter-Long sat down with Ed Boks to hear more about his plans for all New Yorkers. 

Why don’t you tell people about the mission of NYC Animal Care and Control?
The mission statement of Animal Care and Control is to promote and protect the health and safety and welfare of pets and people in NYC. We sort of summarize that into a tag line: we create happiness by bringing pets and people together. Our mission is to help our community to really recognize the value of companion animals and of the animals that find a way into our shelter system, and help them start to see the system as a safety net—that really, if an animal ends up in our shelter, that’s not a bad thing. It’s a safety net—it’s better than being hit by a truck or whatever else… left in the street. What we don’t want is for these animals to come here and abandon all hope; for our shelters to be a dead end. There is the hope and desire that we can place these animals, so we’re going to have a very aggressive adoption program, including outreach and partnering to help get animals out of our shelters and back into the community. Back into homes.

So along those lines, what would you say your priorities for the organization are? And secondly, what are its greatest challenges?
Well I’ve had the advantage of having to work part-time here for the last six months, going back and forth between here and Arizona, and it’s given me ample opportunity to do assessment and analysis of the organization. So, probably by the end of January we will have completed a massive reorganization and have more direct lines of communication between the front line and decision-makers so that we’re more responsive to the community.

Once I’ve got a management team in place, the first thing we’re going to focus on is putting together a strategic plan that’ll guide us for the next five years: really identify the issues—what are the demands of the community, what are the realities of our budgetary constraints, space issues and that sort of thing—and come up with initiatives to specifically address those issues. Of course that means we are going to be looking at reducing euthanasia of companion animals and increasing adoption; and of course, the third leg that balances the stool is having a viable spay/neuter program that provides low- or no-cost services to the pets of any individuals on any form of public assistance. That’s our Big Fix Program.

What does NYC Animal Care & Control do from there?

It’s not in place yet, but that is what we will be doing. There’s a couple ways to approach Big Fix. One is to have regularly scheduled spay days, in which we have veterinarians and med techs volunteer in our clinics. At some point, we hope to have a spay/neuter clinic in each of the five boroughs, right now we have one in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Staten Island.

In February 2002 the city placed the sanitation commissioner on the board of Animal Control, further reinforcing the organization’s image as a “disposal” organization and causing an uproar in the animal care community. What are you attempting to do to alter that perception? Since that time, do you believe that public concern for animals has reached the consciousness of policymakers?

Clearly. The changes to NYC AC&C are reflective of that. Politicians would be well advised to understand animal care is an issue that can affect the outcome of an election. Virtually everybody has a pet. Nobody is going to vote for a politician if they hate animals—or act as if they do. There are many more people out there who will vote for somebody who demonstrates they have a heart for animals. I remember when Mayor Bloomberg made the comment after the blackout: “Don’t forget, feed and water your animals.” Across the country animal welfare people were going, “Did you hear that?” I don’t know that he said that for political effect; he said it from his heart. That’s why it resonated with people.

There is a misconception that the NYC AC&C is a city agency and, as such, part of the Public Health Department. I would assume that bears with it the stigma that you are connected to city government. How are you working to correct these assumptions?

AC&C is a vendor—a contract vendor that provides services to the city of New York through a contract we have with the Department of Health. The DoH is a wonderful partner in supporting us in our animal control aspect. When it comes to the animal care component or the types of programs that provide for the humane needs of animals—that will ultimately bring down the cost of animal control—we are reliant on donations. The city does not have the wherewithal or the means to provide more than the very minimum approach to animal control and very little for animal care.

Would you say that the bulk of the funds received from Public Health is for animal control and not for care? 

That is correct. Over the course of the last year, the budget has been cut from $8.9 to $7.2 million—clearly, not enough resources to do what needs to be done. But we have to do what we can with what we’ve got. Thankfully, anybody who wants to help, can. We have a volunteer program; you can give donations. The team that is coming together—including those who have stayed and those who have joined the organization—are extraordinary people. Turn this organization around we will.

You started full-time on January 12. What are your priorities for NYC AC&C?

The top priority, of course, is to get humane shelters built. That’s a long-term goal; we will have to do a capital campaign to achieve it. In the very short term, I’d like to get all the cages out of our shelters, I’m speaking specifically about dogs, and turn them into humane kennels where animals have room to turn around, are not lying near feces or urine, and can eat/drink and get some exercise. That to me is really, really key right now. The current configuration of our shelters can be very detrimental to the mental and physical health of animals.

And the primary stumbling block to making those necessary changes is money?

Right. We need about $150,000 to put the kennels into the Manhattan shelter and I think we’ve raised about $40,000 to $50,000 already.

Last year, NYC killed some 35,000 animals in its shelter system—that’s about 100 dogs and cats daily. Currently, nearly 70 percent of the animals who enter the system have needed to be put down. You’ve expressed the goal of ending the practice of “euthanizing adoptable animals” in the next five years. What are the critical components of making that happen? 

Humane shelters would go a long way. My definition of a humane shelter is one that provides for the well-being of animals as well as the people who come in to adopt or look for their lost animals. Our shelters right now are little more than holding facilities. They really were not designed or developed for adoption; or to find a lost pet either. Which is why we’re relying so much on technology to get them adopted and out of shelters.

Education is also important. We’re developing a program called TLC—Teach Love and Compassion—which will work with troubled youth in classrooms, teaching them the importance of compassion and responsibility in developing self-confidence.

Are exotic or wild animals an issue you have to contend with, such as the individual in Harlem recently found to have a tiger and an alligator in his apartment? 

We rescue in the neighborhood of 8,000 wild or exotic animals each year, and we end up holding them for days, even weeks, at a time trying to find a place to rehab or release them. Every time we do so eliminates a space that could house a homeless dog or cat. This is a significant problem that nobody seems to be able, or in some cases, wants to address. AC&C is doing this not because it is in our mandate or mission, but sadly, because nobody else will—basically out of necessity. We’re working with a group of organizations that have agreed to form a nonprofit to deal with the problems surrounding NYC urban wildlife. We think we may have found a facility that can be used to house and rehab wildlife and, in the process, free up tens of thousands of kennel spaces each year.

Many readers may not be aware—I certainly wasn’t—that you are a former pastor, and prior to your position here, were the director of Maricopa County’s Animal Care and Control program in Phoenix, AZ. What were the “aha” moments in which you realized animals needed greater consideration and how have your experiences helped prepare you to revitalize and restructure NYC AC&C?

I’ll start with the last part of the question. One of the things my staff challenged me with was, “You’re coming from Arizona? This is real animal control. We rescue 45,000 animals a year.” Well, in Maricopa we rescued 62,000 a year: the largest animal control program in the U.S. It services 24 of the fastest growing towns and cities in the country and covers an area larger than 17 states, over 9,200 square miles. It’s huge. I think working up through the ranks with that organization, first as a kennel worker and eventually as Executive Director, gave me a keen understanding of this industry.

When I went to work there I was the pastor of a church, a principal and a teacher at a private high school. It was very costly to run. After a few years of doing that, the congregation decided they had to disband the school, which was my source of livelihood, the preaching was pro bono.

Recognizing that eating was a hard habit to break, I had to find something that put food on the table. I had worked my way through high school and college as a vet tech in Michigan. So, I heard about this job in Maricopa county and started out entry level there while at the same time I was a pastor.

Maricopa County in those days was not unlike NYC. It was a pretty abhorrent situation. When I got into it, it was an eye-opening experience seeing the condition of the shelters and the policies. It had an abysmal adoption and a very high kill rate. I quickly recognized this was a huge societal problem. While I loved animals and had worked as a vet tech, it had never dawned on me what was really going on. It was a shock.

Would you say that’s a case of ‘out of sight out of mind’?

Absolutely. You go to any city in the country and shelters are our dirty little community secret. They are in parts of town that people generally don’t frequent, which makes it real hard to elevate the issue the way it needs to be. Anyway, we were euthanizing 150 to 200 animals every day when I first started in Maricopa and that was my responsibility. I would go home at night and wake up in a cold sweat. To tell you how barbaric it was, that was back when they were giving cardiac injections—where you put the needle into the heart and inject sodium pentobarbital.  It was very difficult to do it right and could be very slow and agonizing.

I would wake up in the middle of the night, in a cold sweat, and actually feel like a needle was puncturing my chest. Just gasping, catching my breath like “what am I doing?” It didn’t take long before I ultimately resigned the ministry and started moving through the ranks, and soon was responsible for building the first two spay and neuter clinics in Arizona.

It’s interesting. People ask “why’d you leave the ministry?” and my response is “I don’t think I left the ministry, I think I found my ministry.” [Laughs.] It’s all shepherding. And with shelter work you get to shepherd everybody—four legged and two legged.

You hear about these approaches where people show euthanasia on public access TV and it usually backfires. People just don’t want to see it. It was in my face. I guess my “aha’s” were having to see and grope with it daily and recognizing that we can make a difference. We can change this. Recognizing too, that—and this is what makes coming to NY special for me—in Arizona when I began to have this awakening and would reach out to the community, they wanted to help. A lot of shelters have this bunker mentality, “we’re the government, we don’t need any help,” a “you can’t handle the truth” mentality. But I found that if you just open the doors, people want to help. I’m hoping we can do the same thing here.

The turnaround we’ve seen in just the last six months is amazing. This is only my second full-time day on the job. We’re just starting. I want the media to shed light on this—if people know what is going on, they will want to help. We’re seeing that happen. Our volunteer program is really blossoming. We’ve had two orientations since a fundraiser last fall and they’ve been packed. We had to turn people away…that’s just unheard of.

Late last year a system was unveiled, which I saw described as a touch-screen computer kiosk that works like a cross between an ATM and Friendster, dispensing animal profiles and pictures instead of money. Tell us about the plans for the system, and how it works. 

Basically, anybody looking for an animal to adopt or that they’ve lost can access all the animals not only in our shelters, but any brick-and-mortar shelter in the city. The shelters are all working together to provide that service; it’s already available in all five of ours. It doesn’t take the place of searching a shelter if your animal is lost, but it’s a great place to begin; it can tell you which shelter your animal may be in. And if you’re looking to adopt you can find out all kinds of details—a photo, their story—you can actually look at the information, print it out and bring it to our shelters and say “hey, I want to give this animal a home.”

You obviously recognize the importance of language in re-framing public attitudes about our responsibilities to animals. You’ve been a long-time supporter of In Defense of Animal’s Guardian campaign—which seeks to shift the emphasis from that of an animal ‘owner’ to one of a guardian—and have renamed your organization NYC Animal Care and Control. Why are these changes important?

Words mean something. We wanted to get away from the acronym CACC which sounded a bit like a cat spitting up a hairball. When you have five shelters spread out over an area as large as NYC and you call yourself “the center,” it’s like “Where is that? Where is the building?” But we are an organization focused on animal care and control, and the name should reflect that. By control what we mean is the enforcing of ordinances which have to do with animal care, for the sake of the animal and for others. The thing you are really controlling—you can’t control the animals—is the people who possess the animals.

I think the reason you see so many ancillary animal welfare organizations popping up across the country is because the animal control agencies haven’t really fulfilled the expectations of the community. The best way I think we can tell when a municipal or city agency is not fulfilling expectations is when these ancillary groups start popping up to help you achieve your mission. It is almost like, “well you obviously don’t care about the animals so [we’ll] take it from here, rescue them from you.” What I’m hoping is that animal control across the U.S. and here in New York can take on more of the responsibility the community expects us to take on. Emphasizing care and control. Care comes first. But it is ‘and’—not or. There’s an equality there.

Much of the strategy for revitalizing AC&C involves fundraising. The need for that is obvious given your mission and budgetary situation. However, many rank and file animal protectionists are often strapped for cash due to the costs of caring for animals they’ve rescued. What else can people do to assist you in reaching your goals? 

We also take ‘in kind’ donations—if someone has a business and can provide printing or graphics or any number of things. There is so much that needs to be done; feel free to call us or ask. And of course there is volunteering, which is huge. You name it. We have opportunities to work with our information technology (IT) folks; you can work directly with the animals; we need dog walkers, adoption counselors, administrative assistants, people who can do grant writing. Just contact our volunteer coordinator Amanda Faye, who can be reached through our website or phone number.

Connecting the city’s various rescue groups is of critical importance. So many groups feel that they need to go through an intermediary of some sort to work with us, and we’re trying to show that you don’t have to do end runs to work with us. Not only will we work with you, we will bend over backwards to help you help animals. We are going to be applying for grants for various projects. Also—for any auto dealerships out there—we’d like to get some vans, so that when rescue groups find animals they are interested in placing, we can actually deliver those animals. What’s happening now is rescue groups find animals, then they have to go through all kinds of contortions to logistically move the animals from our shelters to wherever they want to take them.

It is interesting that the whole animal welfare movement was formed in NYC with Henry Berg’s work and [looking back] how the whole concept of animal care has evolved, it ultimately produced a nonprofit organization called Animal Care and Control which sort of does it all. We are not only the number one animal rescue organization in NYC, but also in the whole state.

The bottom line is: Anybody that can help us positively affect the lives of animals, well, the door is always open. Whatever your heart compels you to do—just contact us.

To learn more about the NYC AC&C, to get involved or volunteer, visit www.nycacc.org or call (212) 442-2076.