Its time to consider targeted pit bull spay/neuter programs by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and Henry Kleinhans
Henry Kleinhans was mauled to death by his own pit bull. Picture: Solly Lottering

Over the course of my career I may have been responsible for safely placing more pit bulls into loving homes than any other person in the United States.

I have long been troubled by the fact that no dog in history encounters more misunderstanding and vilification than the pit bull; a canine category I define as the American pit bull terrier, the American Staffordshire terrier, the Staffordshire bull terrier, and any crosses of these three. I admire these animals for their tenacious athletic ability, loyalty, intelligence, and high-energy.

Word reached me this morning that Henry Kleynhans, 50, a retired police officer was fatally mauled on February 8, 2018, and his wife Rita was critically injured, by their own pit bull in their home at Belmont Park, Kraaifontein, South Africa. Continue reading “Its time to consider targeted pit bull spay/neuter programs by Ed Boks”

Public comment sought for Bison Management in Grand Canyon National Park by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and BuffaloIn the 16th century North America contained 25-30 million buffalo. However, in the 19th century bison were hunted almost to extinction – with less than 100 remaining by the late 1880s. This mass destruction came with ease to hunters. When one bison is killed, the others gather around the fallen buffalo, which leads to the easy annihilation of large herds.

As the great herds began to wane William F. “Buffalo Bill” Cody, among others, spoke in favor of protecting bison because he feared the pressure on the species was too great. In 1874, President Ulysses S. Grant “pocket vetoed” a Federal bill to protect dwindling bison herds. In 1875, General Philip Sheridan pleaded to a joint session of Congress to slaughter the herds to deprive the Indians of their source of food. By 1884, the American Bison was close to extinction.

In the effort to save this noble species a herd was brought to the Grand Canyon region in the early 1900s. The herd was managed from 1950 into the 1990s by the state of Arizona in the House Rock Wildlife Area (HRWA) in Kaibab National Forest.

During the late 1990s, the herd began migrating to the top of the Kaibab Plateau and into Grand Canyon National Park (GCNP). Today, few bison remain in HRWA preferring the environs of the Grand Canyon Park.

Some 400-600 bison live within the Park. The National Parks Service (NPS) contends the herd is impacting park resources, including water and vegetation – and they want to reduce the herd to 80-200 animals – using hunters.

Advocates for the use of lethal force include Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake, and Congressman Paul Gosar. Arizona Game & Fish Commission Chairman Kurt Davis says his agency won’t even consider a plan that doesn’t include killing, stating, “Any solution should embrace the most cost-effective and heritage-driven option of using citizen hunters to help manage the growing bison herd.”

“Cost-effective,” “heritage-driven” and “manage” is code for “bullets” “slaughter” and “kill” respectively.

Strangely, politicians seldom seem as concerned about the impact cattle have on our public lands. According to a 1997 EPA study, nearly one third of the prime top soil in the US has been lost over the last 200 years due to cattle grazing. Cattle are also considered one of the main sources of pollution in U.S. streams, and are frequently responsible for outbreaks of Giardia and Cryptosporidium.

In fact, bison grazing has been found to help cultivate the land, making it ripe for a diverse range of plants, whereas cattle eat through vegetation limiting the ecosystem’s ability to recover. Comparing cattle to bison is not meant to upset the cattle industry. But it does beg the question that with over 900,000 head of cattle impacting every corner of Arizona every day are we really willing to concede we don’t have the collective brainpower to humanely accommodate a few hundred bison without resorting to killing?

Congress has introduced a pair of bi-partisan bills meant to “protect” Park resources from further bison “damage” by “requiring” the Department of Interior and AZ Game and Fish to develop a plan to permit hunters to “assist in managing” the bison population.

The government’s approach to this “problem” brings to mind Maslow’s Golden Hammer (when all you have is a hammer every problem you encounter needs pounding).

Fortunately, there’s still time to propose humane, non-lethal solutions. NPS is granting the public until March 26 to weigh in. Perhaps, if enough of us ask state officials to consider life-affirming solutions we could begin to put our heritage-driven brutality behind us for good. Comments welcomed at

Ed Boks is the executive director of the Yavapai Humane Society.

Legislators challenge Arizona’s moral progress By Ed Boks

Mahatma Gandhi said it best, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” The same can be said of the states in a nation.

In fact, the greatness and moral progress of all 50 states can be traced through the years by the consistent strengthening of state laws against animal cruelty to include felony provisions. This moral and legal progress has been based on the growing understanding of the link between animal cruelty and violence against humans.

Today, academic journals and textbooks in child welfare, human-animal studies, sociology, child development, criminology, psychology, social work, veterinary medicine, and many other disciplines accept the incontrovertible link between animal abuse, domestic violence, child maltreatment and elder abuse.

Understanding this link, the FBI now requires local law enforcement to track and report animal cruelty the same way homicide, arson and assault are tracked – as a Group A felony.

So, why would any Arizona legislator want to turn back the clock on progress that has taken decades to achieve? Why would any legislator want to strip any animal of any protection provided by the law?

Why would Arizona legislators David Gowan and Brenda Barton work behind closed doors with corporate agriculture lobbyists to craft a bill (HB 2330) designed to repeal the few protections millions of animals have in Arizona?

HB 2330 is not an isolated attempt to repeal Arizona’s animal cruelty laws. Last year enough Arizona legislators supported a similar bill (HB 2150) that it would have been the law of the land today except for Governor Ducey’s veto.

Fortunately, this year’s coup against animal welfare may have died in the Agriculture, Water and Lands Committee when they wisely chose to not agendize HB 2330.

However, the bill could still be resurrected by the House Appropriations Committee this year or introduced in another permutation next year. Animal advocates must remain vigilant in a state where politicians seem strangely determined to weaken animal-cruelty laws.

Apart from some Arizona legislators, animal abuse is widely recognized and understood by law enforcement, public health officials and decent human beings everywhere to be part of a continuum of violence with serious implications for multiple victims and society as a whole.

While Gandhi drew our attention to the societal ramifications of how we treat animals, Immanuel Kant provided some insight into how we should judge politicians who deliberately put animals in harm’s way. “He who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealings with men. We can judge the heart of a man by his treatment of animals.” This maxim serves as a reliable gauge for assessing the character of politicians who have the power to impact how animals, and people, are treated on a massive scale.

Sponsors and supporters of last year’s HB 2150 and this year’s HB 2330 have telegraphed their agenda to reverse Arizona’s moral progress by revoking protections animals in Arizona have benefited from for decades. They have exposed their intent to put the welfare of millions of animals at risk without any corresponding benefit or legitimate justification. They need to know this is not going unnoticed.

Refer to my Feb. 17 column, “Lawmakers target animals again” to understand the risk of cruelty that HB 2330 posed for millions of animals.

State sanctions county, municipal feral cat programs by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and feral catsThe Yavapai Humane Society (YHS) does not accept feral cats. Taking unadoptable feral cats into an animal shelter is a death sentence and is contrary to the YHS no-kill ethic. Rather than employing the “catch and kill” methodology used by many shelters, YHS champions trap/neuter/return (TNR) as the only viable and humane method for effectively reducing feral cat populations.

The Arizona state legislature recently came out in strong agreement with YHS on TNR. Arizona’s governing body overwhelmingly passed SB1260. The new law encourages animal control to return healthy “stray” cats to the vicinity where they were captured after being sterilized; the very definition of TNR.

Coincidentally, perhaps the strongest scientific support for Arizona’s robust endorsement of TNR comes from a 13-month study conducted by the Tasmanian Department of Primary Industries in Hobart, Australia. The study, entitled “Effects of low-level culling of feral cats in open populations” appeared in a recent edition of the journal Wildlife Research, 2015. The findings, trumpeted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Discovery Science, and other media, directly contradict the Australian government, and its environment minister Greg Hunt, who has called for the “effective” eradication of all feral cats by 2023.

Biologist Billie Lazenby, who led the study, says she expected to validate the use of lethal culling (catch and kill) promoted by the Australian government but instead found, to her dismay, that culling markedly increases the numbers of feral cats in an area.

Lazenby and her team of researchers used remote trail cameras to estimate the number of feral cats at two southern Tasmania study sites before and after a 13-month “low-level culling.”

However, Vox Felina blogger Peter Wolf observed, “The effort was anything but low-level. Over the course of 13 months, researchers managed 2,764 trap-nights-an average of seven traps every day of the culling period. Each trapped cat was, after being left in the trap for up to 12 hours or more, ‘euthanized by a single shot to the head from a 0.22 rifle using hollow point ammunition.'”

“Contrary to our prior expectations,” reported Lazenby, the “number of feral cats rose 75 percent at one test site and 211 percent at the other.” Of particular interest, “Cat numbers fell, and were comparable with those in the pre-culling period, when culling ceased.” Suggesting feral cats fill a stable self-regulated ecological niche.

The researchers ultimately concluded the surprising population explosion was the result of “influxes of new [adult] individuals after dominant resident cats were removed.” A phenomenon YHS refers to as the “vacuum effect.” When cats are removed but natural conditions (such as food sources) remain the deterrents of existing territorial cats vanish and neighboring cats quickly invade and overpopulate the newly open territory.

When culling feral cats, Lazenby now says “You may be inadvertently doing more damage than good.”

“What we should focus on when managing feral cats is reducing their impact; and you don’t reduce impact by reducing numbers.” In fact, a growing number of studies conclusively prove lethal culling induces a biological imperative that causes feral cats to overbreed and overproduce to survive. Counter-intuitively, lethal culling directly exacerbates feral cat problems.

Gratefully Arizona has a legislature who understands the science and through SB1260 is directing county and municipal animal control agencies to recognize TNR as the only viable, humane solution to our communities’ vexing feral cat problems.

Arizona is leading the nation through this ground breaking legislation. How wonderful would it be if Yavapai County and local municipalities took the lead by building an effective and humane trap/neuter/return program on this historic foundation?

FBI calls animal cruelty ‘crime against society’ By Ed Boks

Many studies over the years have demonstrated conclusively that young people who torture and kill animals are prone to violence against people later in life if it goes unchecked. Finally, this knowledge is being applied by law enforcement in an effort to identify and intervene in the lives of young animal abusers before they become serial and/or mass murderers.

For years, the FBI has filed animal abuse crimes under the label “other” – thus lumping them with a variety of lesser crimes. This makes cruelty crimes hard to find, count and track. The bureau announced this month that it will make animal cruelty a Group A felony with its own category in the same way crimes like homicide, arson and assault are listed.

This new federal category for animal cruelty crimes will help identify animal abusers before their behavior worsens. It will also encourage prosecutors and judges to take these crimes seriously.

It is hoped this new category will result in more appropriate sentences, more influence with juries, and the ability to make more meaningful plea bargains.

The special category will also help law enforcement officials identify young offenders, and hopefully help offenders realize early that with the right help they need not turn into a Jeffrey Dahmer later.

With this new category, law enforcement agencies will soon be required to report incidents and arrests in four areas: simple or gross neglect; intentional abuse and torture; organized abuse, including dogfighting and cockfighting; and animal sexual abuse.

“The immediate benefit is that it will be in front of law enforcement every month when they have to do their crime reports,” said John Thompson, interim executive director of the National Sheriffs’ Association who worked to get the new animal cruelty category instituted. “That’s something we have never seen.”

Law enforcement officials will soon understand that this data provides an important crime fighting tool, and its “not just somebody saying the ‘Son of Sam’ killed animals before he went to human victims, and 70-some percent of the school shooters abused animals prior to killing people,” said Thompson, a retired assistant sheriff from Prince George’s County, Maryland.

FBI studies show that serial killers like Dahmer impaled the heads of dogs, frogs and cats on sticks; David Berkowitz, known as the “Son of Sam,” poisoned his mother’s pet; and Albert DeSalvo, aka the “Boston Strangler,” trapped cats and dogs in wooden crates and killed them by shooting arrows through the boxes.

It will take time and money to update FBI and law enforcement databases nationwide, revise manuals and send out guidelines, Thompson said, so there won’t be any data collected until January 2016. After that, it will take several months before there are numbers to analyze.

The new animal cruelty statistics will allow police and counselors to work with children who show early signs of trouble, enabling professionals to intervene early when a preschooler is known to be hurting animals – so hopefully the urge to hurt can be mitigated before humans become targets.

The FBI’s category will track crimes nationwide and is bound to give animal cruelty laws in all 50 states more clout. Many states are seeing more of those convicted of animal cruelty being sentenced to prison in marked contrast to years past.

Whether talking about state laws or the FBI change, it is clear “that regardless of whether people care about how animals are treated, people – like legislators and judges – care about humans, and they can’t deny the data,” said Natasha Dolezal, director of the animal law program in the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon.

Let officials know your concerns regarding animal cruelty By Ed Boks

It is disheartening to learn of acts of animal cruelty that seem to continue despite the concerted efforts of so many animal welfare agencies dedicated to the prevention of animal mistreatment. We recently learned of an incident where a young man hiking in the forest found two Chow mix puppies that had obviously been abandoned. These little guys were no more than four weeks old, and had been left alone to face whatever fate might befall them.

Fortunately, the fellow who found these pups was able to locate a rescue agency that could take them, and it appears that these two are going to be OK. However, this form of animal cruelty seems to be on the increase. While the cases that are discovered can be quantified, we can only guess at the number of unknown instances that are now occurring with regularity.

Animal cruelty as defined by various statutes is clearly against the law in most jurisdictions. However, vigorous enforcement of the laws is the key to a successful outcome. In Maricopa County, for example, the sheriff’s office has dedicated a team of investigators to check out thousands of animal abuse reports that come in annually. This team has been in place for the past seven years. Involved officials say it’s a way not only to educate the public about the proper care of animals, but also to target abusers who could be working up to violence against humans. Some experts claim animal abuse is often the starting point of an escalation to child abuse, domestic violence, or murder and serial killing.

Closer to home, the Northern Arizona Animal Cruelty Task Force (NAACTF) was formed in cooperation with the Yavapai County Sheriff’s office. The mission statement of this group includes the following: “To increase awareness of animal cruelty laws in Northern Arizona; to enhance and coordinate enforcement of animal cruelty laws; and to educate law enforcement, animal care professionals and other agencies in aspects of animal cruelty and the relationship of animal cruelty to other forms of assault related behavior.” The members of NAACTF include representatives from most of the local animal welfare agencies.

The NAACTF has established an animal cruelty hotline you can call to report instances of animal cruelty. The phone number is 771-3595. You can leave a recorded message with the option of furnishing your name, address and phone number. However, we urge you to exercise good judgment and consider the seriousness of your allegation before making a report. Frivolous reports will only burden the system and dilute its effectiveness.

We acknowledge that much progress has been made over the years through education and various programs by animal welfare groups to increase public awareness of the widespread problem of animal cruelty. Yet it persists. And at times like the present, we seem to be losing ground, especially when we encounter those who don’t realize abandonment constitutes animal cruelty.

More effort needs to be expended. In addition to reporting animal cruelty, you can help by making your feelings known to elected officials. Also, when specific cases are involved, let the presiding judge and other officials know of your concern by insisting on strict enforcement of the existing laws.

The California Humane Farms Initiative by Ed Boks

Ed Boks and factory farmingCalifornians for Humane Farms is an initiative sponsored by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Farm Sanctuary and many other animal protection groups, family farmers, veterinarians and public health professionals. This coalition is waging a ballot initiative campaign in California to pass The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act in the November 2008 election.

Supporters of the initiative claim The Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act asks for only the most basic needs for farm animals: merely the ability to turn around and extend their limbs. It is hard to imagine a more moderate initiative. HSUS explains the purpose of the measure is to prevent three methods of the allegedly most cruel and inhumane forms of extreme confinement in the world of animal agribusiness: veal crates, battery cages, and gestation crates. All three of these practices have already been legislated against in the European Union.

Proponents claim the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act will reduce the suffering of nearly 20 million animals confined in California factory farms. The measure will also prevent other out-of-state factory farm operators from setting up shop in our state with veal crates, battery cages, and gestation crates. Florida, Arizona, and Oregon have banned gestation crates, and Arizona has banned veal crates. Some major California food retailers are already moving away from supporting battery cages and veal and gestation crates.

Gestation crates are used to confine a sow for nearly her whole four-month pregnancy. Right before giving birth, she is moved from the gestation crate into a farrowing crate – a metal stall designed to separate her from her nursing piglets. After the piglets are weaned prematurely, the sow is re-impregnated and confined again in a gestation crate. Farrowing crates are exempted from this measure.

Nearly 800,000 Californians have already stepped up to sign a petition to put this seemingly modest proposal on the November ballot. The petition calls for all Californians to come together to end what many consider to be the cruelest confinement techniques used on factory farms – both in terms of the intensity and duration of confinement. Petitioners assert that keeping animals so restrictively crated that they can barely move for months on end is cruel and inhumane.

Battle to put Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act on the ballot continues by Ed Boks

A precedent-setting ballot initiative campaign to ban what many consider to be the cruelest forms of confinement in the veal, egg, and pork industries has been underway in California for the past few months.

A total of 650,000 signatures are required to put the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act on the statewide ballot this November, and with just two weeks left, about 90,000 signatures are still needed.

If you are interested in finding out more about this initiative click here for full details:

More background information can be found in an LA Times editorial that ran this past Saturday, entitled “Hard to Stomach”. In it, The LA Times criticized the USDA for failing to prevent abuses recently exposed by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in a California meat packing plant. There’s also an Associated Press story about the USDA extending the ban on this plant which has been closed since the story broke on January 30th.

LA City Council approves Spay/Neuter Ordinance! by Ed Boks

The LA Times trumpeted the news in today’s edition, “The Los Angeles City Council voted 10 to 1 today to approve mandatory sterilization of most pets at the age of 4 months or older – a decision greeted by cheers and applause from the crowded room at the Van Nuys City Hall – where the council meets the first Friday of every month.

Los Angles is the largest city in the United States with such an ordinance.

On behalf of LA Animal Services, and the tens of thousands of lost and homeless animals we care for every year, I want to thank everyone who was able to attend Friday’s City Council meeting and anyone who played any role in helping to get the long awaited Spay/Neuter Ordinance passed.

This is a victory for the entire community, whether they were there or not, and whether they know it or not. Soon we’ll have an important tool with which we can make significant progress toward the goal we all aspire, ending euthanasia as a method of pet overpopulation control.

This is a monumental accomplishment and, on behalf of the Department, I congratulate and thank you all.

Pet Selling Laws by Ed Boks

Federal Income Tax: Income from animal sales is the same as other ordinary income and must be reported for federal income tax purposes. The IRS encourages the reporting of any persons who evade income tax liability by offering a reward of up to 15% of the taxes received.

Always get a receipt for the price paid for an animal and try to avoid paying cash. Write a check instead. A seller’s insistence on cash can be based on a desire to avoid paying income taxes or even a desire to keep you from having recourse if there are problems with the animal. Never buy an animal offered in a public place, swap meet, parking lot, etc.

California Income Tax: The above is also true for purposes of California resident income taxes. California sales tax must be reported and paid by sellers of more than two animals during any year.   If you’re buying a family pet (except from someone re-homing a single family pet), ask for the seller’s sales permit number.

California Puppy and Kitten Lemon Laws:
Summary of Lockyer-Polanco-Farr Pet Protection Act: This law requires pet dealers (i.e. retail sellers of more than 50 dogs or cats in the previous year; not including animal shelters and humane societies) to have a permit, maintain certain health and safety standards for their animals, sell only healthy animals, provide written spay-neuter, health, animal history and other information and disclosures to pet buyers and also makes them liable for your damages up to specified limits if:

1. The dealer has not maintained specified health, safety and comfort standards for all animals in his/her care (please read the law at the link below so you will know what to look for)
2. A veterinarian states in writing that the animal became ill within 15 days of purchase, or
3. A veterinarian states in writing that within a year of purchase the animal has a hereditary or congenital disease that requires hospitalization and from which the animal is unlikely to recover

If the dealer refuses to pay, the most effective way to recover your damages is usually through a small claims court action. Please check with your local small claims court as they can provide information to guide you through the process.

This law also requires pet dealers to only have dogs that are at least 8 weeks old and to provide dogs with decent food, water, sanitary living conditions, socialization, exercise and prompt veterinary care. They must also have each dog checked and treated as necessary by a vterinarian before s/he is sold. Dealers must also maintain records of each animal sold for a period of one year. Non-compliance with this law is punishable by a civil fine of up to $1,000 per violation, with possible additional penalties for certain offenses as high as $10,000 and a ban from selling pets for up to one year. Violations should be reported to your local animal control agency and, if necessary, your local district attorney’s or city attorney’s office.

You should be prepared to carefully document any complaints with provable facts as government agencies may not have the time or resources to do so.

If a breeder is breaking the rules, it’s important that you bring this to the attention of the proper authorities. The animals can’t, and its they who suffer and die at the hands of breeders operating in violation of animal protection laws. Please speak up for those who have no voice.

Summary of Polanco-Lockyer Pet Breeder Warranty Act: This law offers protection similar to that of the Lockyer-Polanco-Farr Pet Protection Act, except that it applies only to dog breeders who sold or gave away either three litters or 20 dogs in the previous year. Cats are not covered. Breeders subject to this law are not covered by the Lockyer-Polanco-Farr Pet Protection Act.

California Cruelty to Animals Laws: California prohibits cruelty to animals and defines it very broadly. A violation of these laws is a felony punishable by a lengthy prison term. There are also rules for pet shops to insure that animals are treated decently. For a summary of these laws,

Cruelty to animals should be reported to your local police or sheriff’s department. In the City of Los Angeles report cruelty to the LA Animal Cruelty Task Force at 213.847.1417.

Local Laws: Every city and county in California has the right to pass laws that can affect animal breeders and sellers. These include:

1. Zoning laws (for example, use of a residence zoned only for residential use to conduct a pet breeding/sale business).
2. Laws on the maximum number of animals that can be at a given address.
3. Business license requirements, including licenses specific to animal sellers.
4. Health and safety rules for animals.
5. Noise control ordinances.
6. Mandatory spay/neuter laws.
7. Laws punishing cruelty to animals.
8. Other restrictions on animal breeders and sellers.
9. Anti-animal fighting laws.

You can learn about these laws and file complaints against violators at the local government agency with responsibility for the subject matter.

Federal Law – The 1970 Animal Welfare Act: This law requires, among other things, licensing of breeders who have four or more breeding dogs or cats and who sell their puppies or kittens, or other breeders who sell puppies or kittens raised by other breeders. These breeders are required to maintain minimum health, safety and welfare standards for animals in their care. The text of the law can be found at

While complaints about unlicensed breeders and conditions at licensed breeders can be made to the USDA, their resources to deal with violations are limited and legal action against violators is rare. Complaints made under state and local laws are more likely to result in effective action.

A Big Thank You to attorney Sandy Ettinger for helping me put this important information together for all of us.