Tuesday, June 14, 2011

ACR Saves 14 Kittens from Ohio

On Monday, June 13th, ACR received an email that a transport van from Ohio had driven 14 kittens and 1 adult cat to Maryland to transfer them to a local rescue group.

When the transport arrived, and the rescue group discovered that one of the kittens had an upper respiratory infection, they would not take any of the kittens. 

The wonderful volunteers who had driven them over 450 miles were devastated, because they were going to have to drive them back, where they would most likely be euthanized.

Emails started flying back and forth between groups, and one wonderful person put up $1,000 to whoever would take them and save them from certain death.  We decided that we would not see these kittens and mother cat end up in the shelter, so we decided to take them.

We are hoping to raise an additional $2,000 to help cover the costs.  The kittens have some of their vaccinations, but still need to be spayed or neutered and receive other vaccines. Please use the chip-in below to donate directly to these kittens care! 

Monday, June 13, 2011

Court Case Could Set Precedent

Jan Van Dusen is a volunteer and foster parent for Fix Our Ferals, a charitable organization in California dedicated to TNRing community cats. She has been caring for about 70 cats in her home, while she works to find them new homes. She has also been keeping track of the associated expenses her volunteering has incurred, on items like veterinary bills, food, litter, and a portion of her utility bills. Now, most accountants would advise against individuals claiming such deductions on their taxes, unless they are prepared to be challenged by the IRS. And that is exactly what happened to Ms. Van Dusen; the IRS came knocking.

Photo Credit: Michael Mullady for the Wall Street Journal
Representing herself in court, Ms. Van Dusen explained to the judge what each of the deductions was for and that she volunteers her services and uses her own money to help cats from Fix Our Ferals find permanent homes. According to Ms. Van Dusen, IRS lawyers tried to discredit her case by playing up that she is “crazy cat lady,” but Van Dusen said the judge in her case was very patient and ended up ruling in her favor, saying in a 42-page decision that some of her bills “were unreimbursed expenses incurred to help a charitable group in its mission.” It is still unclear the total deduction Ms. Van Dusen won, but according to the Humane Soceity of the United States, “It estimates that many…volunteers spend up to $2,000 of their own money a year to help animals in need, with some spending up to $15,000 a year when all expenses are counted.”

The IRS has 90 days to appeal to a federal appeals court regarding this case. Hopefully the ruling will stand and provide precedent for countless animal volunteers who selflessly acquire hefty bills while providing their community a much-needed service. To read the entire story, click here.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Nat Geo: Tigers of the Snow

I recently watched a National Geographic documentary on the plight of the Siberian tiger. Like so many wild cats, the Siberian tiger (or Amur tiger) is endangered and on the verge of extinction. Although the Siberian tiger is the largest cat on the planet, there are only 300-350 remaining in the wild. These tigers were once protected under old Soviet law but after the regime change, these laws have become more relaxed and many of the tigers fall prey to poachers who sell their body parts in Asian medicine markets. Every part of the Siberian tiger is thought to have healing powers and their pelts can fetch up to $10,000. Deforestation is the other main reason for the tiger’s decline. Siberian tigers used to range over all of Asia, but now the remaining few are only found in a small mountain chain along the coast of Japan. The largest natural forest in the world, which extends over most of Russia, is being cut down at a rate of about 10 million acres every year, leaving less and less suitable habitat for these animals (and countless other animals).

WCS field staff collect data during capture
of a juvenile Amur tiger.
Photo by John Goodrich, WCS.
American and Russian scientists are working together to try to save these mystical creatures, but it is not an easy task. The landscape where these animals live makes it difficult to track them in the wild and most of the tracking must be done in the winter when they are most visible; (this is also the time of year when poachers are most active.) Scientists use humane snares to trap them and also dart the tigers from helicopters. Once a tiger is sedated, a radio collar is put on the animal so its habits can be tracked. Unfortunately, the life of a radio collar is only for two years and then the battery must be replaced. So the scientists are constantly needing to re-dart tigers so they can continue to track them. Scientists also ear tag tiger cubs when they come across a den, however, this is very dangerous. Although Siberian tigers have never been known to be “man hunters,” a mother tiger will defend her cubs to the death. So there are a lot of elements that the scientists must contend with in order to save these animals.

Siberian tigers are also being studied in captivity. Often times tiger cubs are orphaned so scientists take them to study them and so they can become part of a breeding program. Another obstacle for tigers is that the mortality rate of cubs in the wild is relatively high at 30% and it is common for tigers in captivity to not care for their cubs. Scientists take particular care to raise the cubs so that they may be released back into the wild. Russian scientists reach out to the public and educate school children not to be fearful of Siberian tigers (since they live in close proximity to these animals) and on the importance of protecting the species. The more people understand about these animals, the more they will be willing to protect them.

From tracking tigers in the wild, scientists have discovered that most of these animals are traveling outside the parameters of the nature reserves that have been set up for them. Again, it is highlighted how vast their ranges are and the land that is needed to support these creatures. Females will have a range of around 200 square miles, while a male tiger can have a range of up to 500 square miles. Dr. Maurice Hornocker, an American scientist, says, “You can literally define an entire ecosystem by studying a big cat.” He says by protecting a large predator, like a tiger, you will in turn protect an entire ecosystem, which will protect countless other species. Man is the biggest threat to these magnificent creatures and once they are gone, it is possible that the entire ecosystem that they were once a part of will also collapse.

For more information on the Siberian Tiger Project, please visit Wildlife Conservation Society Russia.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

The National Zoo Stands behind Nico Dauphine

As mentioned in the last post, Alley Cat Rescue’s President, Louise Holton, sent a letter to the director of the Zoo requesting that Nico Dauphine be suspended from her position at the Zoo until there is an investigation into the allegations of animal cruelty pending against her. One would think that this isn’t too much to ask, considering Dauphine works with animals. And it especially doesn’t seem like too much of a request, considering her research for the Zoo’s Migratory Bird Center involves cats and she is charged with poisoning cats! 

Yet, the National Zoo continues to stand behind Dauphine, by allowing her to remain in her position. Again, the Zoo tries to reassure its supporters that animal care is one of its “top priorities,” and that Dauhpine’s research “in no way jeopardizes animals.” The Zoo talks of taking “temporary precautions” with her work, but what are we supposed to think that means? The only “precaution” the Zoo should be taking right now is by suspending her altogether. Until the court proves otherwise, this woman should not be permitted to be around animals.

Here is a copy of the response ACR (and others) received from the National Zoo:    

Thank you for contacting the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and FONZ regarding the allegations against Dr. Nico Dauphine, a postdoctoral research fellow based within the Migratory Bird Center. We take our role as the nation’s zoo very seriously and work hard to provide leadership in animal care, conservation science, education, and sustainability.

Animal care is one of the Zoo’s top priorities, and we appreciate when visitors share our passion and concern for our animals’ well-being. Please be assured that Dr. Dauphine’s research in no way jeopardizes animals, and the Smithsonian has taken appropriate temporary precautions with respect to her postdoctoral appointment. These restrictions will allow this matter to be fairly resolved within the judicial system.

Our leadership team thanks you for sharing our passion for the Zoo, and your continued support is greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

ACR Sends a Letter to the Director of the National Zoo

Alley Cat Rescue sent a letter to the director of the National Zoo requesting Nico Dauphine be suspended until a full investigation into the animal cruelty charges she is faced with has been completed. Below is a copy of the letter. We also encourage our members to send a letter to Director Kelly expressing your thoughts on the situation. You can find the Zoo's contact information here. Thank you.

Dear Director Kelly,

Alley Cat Rescue and our 110,000 members are very disappointed to learn that you are permitting Nico Dauphine to continue her research with the National Zoo, in light of the recent animal cruelty charges she is facing for allegedly poisoning cats in her neighborhood. In fulfilling the National Zoo's mission statement, you owe it to all the animals under your care AND to the citizens of the United States to ensure that all employees are providing “the highest quality care” to ALL animals and protecting ALL wildlife. By allowing Dauphine to continue her research with the Zoo’s Migratory Bird Center, where she directly works with citizens’ cats as part of the Neighborhood Nestwatch project, is highly hypocritical of the Zoo’s mission statement and goes beyond irresponsible.

Dauphine may say “her whole life is devoted to the care and welfare of animals," but history has shown that her devotion to animals clearly only extends to birds and does not include cats. In 2008, Dauphine wrote a letter to the St. Petersburg Times saying: “cats may be the single biggest direct cause of bird mortality, far outnumbering all other causes (including human hunters) put together!” On what science is this statement based...the same pseudo science that she and her colleague, Dr. Peter Marra, use to perpetuate the lies about cat predation? This statement and numerous others by Dauphine are not based on any scientific research; though she takes every opportunity to misrepresent statistics in order to paint a dark picture of cats.

In that same letter to the St. Petersburg Times, Dauphine speaks of taking it upon herself to control community cat populations by trapping them and taking them to a local shelter to have them euthanized. Though this method of management is not criminal and is widely accepted by local animal control agencies, it has been brought to our attention that Dauphine’s trapping cats in Georgia was not always conducted within the guidelines of the law. Luckily for her, official charges were never filed. However, this time her neighbors were not taking any chances when they suspected something was wrong. This time the Washington Humane Society was able to gather evidence needed to charge Dauphine.       

The American public trusts the National Zoo to protect and care for, not only the animals under its care, but for all animals. So how can your institution say, “We know what she’s doing would in no way jeopardize our animal collection at the National Zoo or jeopardize wildlife, so we feel perfectly comfortable that she continue her research.” Do you honestly believe that statement, knowing the current allegations against her? It is the National Zoo’s responsibility to the American public (especially since the majority of its funding comes from “federal appropriations”) to ensure its employees are of high moral character; and if for some reason a situation should arise that brings into question a person's character and intentions (like being charged with animal cruelty for example), that person should be removed from his/her position until a full investigation proves otherwise.

Washington, DC officials and residents support the use of trap-neuter-return for managing community cats. In December of 2009, the City Code was amended to read that TNR must be the course of first response when answering constituent inquiries related to stray and feral cat challenges. The Washington Humane Society, along with various other animal organizations, assists local residents with sterilization and vaccination of community cats year round. Cats in the DC neighborhood where Dauphine was allegedly poisoning cats are regularly cared for by residents and are part of a trap-neuter-return program. According to a national survey, an overwhelming majority of Americans (81%) believe that leaving a feral cat outside to live out his life is more humane than having the cat caught and killed by animal control. The American public does NOT support management practices of community cats that include killing the animals. Rather, citizens will support (and volunteer their resources) for programs that utilize non-lethal methods. By supporting Dauphine and her rogue activities, the National Zoo shows it does not take into account the public’s opinion, nor does it extend its mission statement to cats.

Again, Alley Cat Rescue is requesting that you start taking these allegations seriously by suspending Nico Dauphine from her position at the National Zoo until a full investigation is completed. Along with our members, we have also gathered an additional 700+ signatures from individuals who agree that Dauphine should be suspended. The American public requests your attention to this matter. Thank you.


Louise Holton
President and Founder