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Monthly Archives: October 2011

Fun and games, cops and robbers at the Circleville Pumpkin Festival

Tami, Aidan, and Billie Reeves

It was a beautiful, brisk fall day at the Pumpkin Festival last Friday. We ate our way through the festival feasting on fried cheese, brats, pumpkin seeds, pumpkin cream puffs, pumpkin elephant ears, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin peanut brittle, pumpkin coffee, and more. We had enough fair food to clog our veins for the next month.

The festival had the usual queens, parades, carnival rides, craft booths, and other distractions. This was the 105th edition of the Circleville Pumpkin Festival and after 100+ years they have learned to do it right. We were impressed by the EMTs on bicycles and an improvised golf cart-ambulance looking much like something used on a football field. The police patrolled on bicycles and another improvised golf cart/patrol car.

My niece and I wandered through the booths while her husband and four-year old son rode the kiddy rides. As we walked around the booths we were surprised to see so many with knockoff  name-brand purses at ridiculously cheap prices so prominently displayed. We discussed the bust recently at a discount mall in Columbus and decided the same people must have moved out to a country fair hoping to hide in a small town. That bust netted over $8 million in counterfeit goods a few weeks ago.

We found what seemed like a street bazaar off a back alley with an abundance of the knock-off purses, CDs, DVDs, sunglasses, and Nike shoes. As we were strolling down the alley a burley police officer walked by with a handcuffed man in tow. About that time we heard a loud voice and commotion coming from one end. Another voice said to an unsuspecting shopper that the purses were not for sale and wiped the whole display out with one swipe of the arm. It was at that point we realized we were in the middle of a big bust. About 7 or 8 men sat on the ground with their hands handcuffed behind them. We didn’t stick around any longer to find out what was happening. We didn’t want to be in the way in case any bullets started flying.

Later on the news we learned they took in approximately 10,000 bootleg DVDs, 2,000 CDs, 500 purses, and 300 pairs of Nike shoes. The purses and luggage carried names and logos of Louis Vitton, Coach and Dolce & Gabanna. Some booths were selling bootleg copies of feature films not yet released including this year’s remake of “Fright Night.”

 We decided we had had enough excitement for the day and headed back to meet up with her husband and son to watch the pet parade. The parade included all types of dogs and cats and I also saw at least one lizard or iguana. (Thankfully, no snakes!)The dogs in costumes didn’t look too excited parading down the street and the cats in rolling enclosed carriages and pens were even more unhappy. But, the kids showing them off were ecstatic. Of course, there were pumpkins, real and otherwise, in the parade along with orange-clad marching bands, queens riding giant pumpkins, floats, girl and boy scouts, and military salutes.

We have been properly indoctrinated for fall with everything pumpkin orange and I think I have had enough pumpkin stuff to last me until Thanksgiving. But I won’t turn down a piece of pumpkin pie if you are offering. Pass the whipped cream please.


No more lions and tigers and bears as pets

A committee representing various zoos and animal groups across the state is working on legislation to regulate ownership of non-native animals. This is being done to prevent an animal Armageddon such as we had last week in Zanesville, Ohio. (See: What can we learn from Ohio‘s animal Armageddon?)

A proposal has been made banning private ownership, except in the case of existing owners, who would be covered by a grandfather clause for those possessing animals prior to Jan. 1, 2013. Jack Hanna told the committee, “All eyes are on Ohio. The world is watching, and we need to have something in place so this never happens again….”

Hanna also said, “No more lions and tigers and bears as pets.”

The group has drafted a new exotic-animals law that proposes a permitting process, but not a ban on ownership of wild animals not native to Ohio. It also includes that owners would be required to have at least $250,000 in liability insurance and to implant electronic devices under the animals’ skin so they can be tracked if they escape.

Hanna said the facilities of exotic animal owners should undergo regular inspections and provide proof that they have funding for humane animal habitat and care; document where the animal came from, and if sold, where it is going; maintain adequate insurance; build tall perimeter fencing, and plan for where the animals would go if the facility were closed.

Ban on exotic wildlife debated.

‘It was our only option’

Here is more information on how events developed after a menagerie of wild animals were released on Terry Thompson’s farm in Zanesville, Ohio last week. The sheriff and his deputies had no other options but to shoot the animals in order to protect the public. A number of the animals were about to enter Interstate 70.


‘It was our only option’.

What can we learn from Ohio’s animal Armageddon?

Jungle Jack Hanna, known as much for his zany humor as for his love of animals, was near tears as he described the carnage after 49 exotic animals escaped from a Zanesville, Ohio farm. He described it as if Noah’s Ark wrecked in the middle of Zanesville.

As Sheriff Matt Lutz described the activities in his morning press conference, my attention was on Hanna’s face. When I saw this usual jovial man fighting tears I suddenly realized the enormity of the situation. The sheriff’s deputies shot 48 animals including 18 rare Bengal tigers and 17 lions after exotic animal owner, Terry Thompson, released all the animals from their cages and then took his own life. One animal, a monkey, remains missing and is believed eaten by one of the big cats.

In all, more than 50 exotic animals including bears, tigers, lions, wolves, and monkeys were released from their cages. When officials arrived, six remained in or near their cages and were able to be rescued and transferred to the Columbus Zoo.

Neighbors described the scene as sounding like a war zone with one man estimating at least 350 shots were fired. When deputies arrived at the farm they had a little over an hour of daylight left to corral nearly 50 wild animals. Their first concern was the safety of the people—and that is as it should be. Law enforcement officers don’t travel with tranquilizer guns and the only choice they had was to shoot the animals. Jack Hanna supported Sheriff Lutz’s decision. The sheriff said that if the incident had happened during daylight his decision and approach would have been different.

It is a tragic incident. Many animal lovers have been angry over the deaths and Jack Hanna and the sheriff have even had death threats. As an animal lover I was sickened by the sight of the many proud, beautiful animals laid out ready for burial. However, I’m sure no one was more upset over the events than Hanna himself.

Animal rights lovers have a right to be angry but their anger should be directed at Ohio’s lax laws rather than the innocent people caught up in the nightmare. Ohio is one of several states with no rules or regulations regarding private ownership of exotic animals and even holds auctions regularly. Wayne  Pacelle, head of the Humane Society, equated Ohio to the Wild West.

What makes this incident even more tragic is it could have been avoided if an agreement negotiated by former governor Ted Strickland had been allowed to continue under the new administration. Pacelle said the Zanesville situation could have been prevented if Kasich had extended and enforced an exotic-animals ban signed by former Gov. Ted Strickland before leaving office in January. The ban was the last component of an animal-welfare deal worked out by Strickland, the Humane Society, Ohio Farm Bureau and others.

When Kasich took office he allowed the ban to lapse in April saying it was difficult to enforce and had no funding.  Bill Damschroder, chief legal counsel for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, the agency that would have enforced the animal order, said he determined that it “exceeded the agency’s authority.” Damschroder said legislation was not in place that empowered the agency to do the things required by Strickland’s order. In addition, it allocated no resources for statewide enforcement.

Countering the argument, Dan Kobil, constitutional-law expert at Capital University, said that it is “at least strongly arguable that the governor has authority to issue an executive order to direct the ODNR to make rules protecting the state’s property … from exotic animals.” The governor seems to have very broad powers to issue executive orders. The only apparent limitation is action that would violate antitrust laws.

Janetta King, who was Strickland’s policy director, said that no one challenged the policy at the time. She said that ODNR has very broad authority to regulate wild animals.

Under Strickland’s order it required owners to register exotic animals with the state by May 1, 2011. It also prohibited anyone with a conviction involving abuse or neglect of animals from owning exotic animals. Thompson did have animal-cruelty and other related convictions in 2006.

In hindsight, it appears that the policy was indeed workable using executive order and giving ODNR the ability to enforce the regulations. This leaves only the second part of Kasich’s argument viable—lack of money. Was the plan scrapped at the altar of finance? If that is what happened, then it is a travesty.

Law enforcement officials know of many cases in their districts where individuals own one or more exotic animals. Several years ago a lion was spotted in our sleepy town of Gahanna. The “Gahanna lion” became a joke but we now see it was no laughing matter. Compounding the irony is the fact that the local high school mascot is a lion. Many people didn’t believe that a lion was on the prowl but it was first sighted by a police officer. He was quoted as saying that when he keyed the mike to tell HQ about his sighting he knew it would not be believed. Later I learned from a police officer that they knew of a property within a few miles of where we live that had a lion in a pen behind their house. The police department thought the lion might have escaped his enclosure and was wandering the area. The lion was never captured despite several sightings.

If some laws and regulations were in place then law enforcement would be able to eliminate these dangerous “pets”. Sheriff Lutz said they had been to Thompson’s property many times but because these animals were pets and not used for entertainment or sold they had no jurisdiction. Can a lion, tiger, or bear really be a pet? Even those hand raised and bottle fed can strike a death blow in a blink of an eye. A veteran Ohio animal rescue officer said that at least 20 private owners around the state have a least 20 exotic animals. “That is only the ones they know of, there could be many more across the state.” He added, “We’ve got houses full of pythons. These individuals will go unknown until there’s a house fire or something like that.”

This madness needs to be stopped now. Do you want to live next door to a house full of deadly snakes; or have lions, tigers, bears, and wolves in the woods behind you? The first sighting of the Gahanna lion occurred just a couple of miles from where I live in a heavily populated community.

One bright spot from this disaster is that a bill was introduced in the Ohio legislature today.  State Rep. Debbie Phillips’ bill is similar to the one championed by Gov. Strickland. Included in the bill is a requirement to embed electronic devices for tracking if they escape. It also includes an emergency clause to take effect immediately if passed. It permits existing owners of exotic animals with federal licenses to keep their animals.

An end to this insanity must come soon. Since 1993 Ohio has had 84 incidents and 10 deaths. Animal lovers everywhere call on the governor and legislature to put politics aside and pass legislation that protects both people and beasts. Remember the 49 animals that died a senseless death. If there is a next time men, women, and children could be included in the fatality count.

Only by the grace of God was no one killed in this animal Armageddon in Zanesville. We might not be so lucky the next time.



Dogs leave paw prints on your heart, adopt one today!

Left to right--Gus and Tasha

If you are not moved by a warm furry body next to yours, big floppy ears, wagging tail, and a wet tongue eager to give you doggy kisses, then you aren’t human. October is “Adopt A Dog Month” and if currently you don’t have a dog, I strongly urge you to run to your nearest shelter or foster agency to find one. And if you do have a dog, then I urge to you to consider getting one more.

I have two adopted dogs that started out as foster dogs and they are surrounding me as I write this. I almost always have at least one dog under my desk, under my feet, or by my chair as I work at my desk each day. They have been rescued from a bad life and a terrible fate and they seem to know that they got lucky and have a pretty good life right now.

I began fostering dogs after hurricane Katrina in 2005. My heart broke as I watched people separated from their dogs when they were rescued. Most evacuation centers would not allow pets nor were they allowed on busses that provided transportation for the thousands suddenly homeless. I vividly remember crying as I watched a small white dog frantically pawing a closed bus’s door where its owner had just boarded. According to various statistics, somewhere between 8,000 to 15,000 pets were rescued after Katrina. Only 400 were reunited with their owners and, sadly, an estimated 600,000 pets died. I was so moved by what happened that I immediately found a foster organization, Columbus Dog Connection, and volunteered my services.

Officials of disaster preparedness learned that pet owners are extremely devoted to their furry friends. Many people died during Katrina because they refused to leave their pets behind. After seeing the devastation to both humans and pets, the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Standards Actwas passed requiring states seeking FEMA assistance to accommodate pets and service animals in their plans for evacuating residents facing disasters. The bill passed with an overwhelming majority on May 22, 2006.

Since that time I have fostered and/or adopted about a half-dozen dogs. I’m afraid I haven’t been a very good foster mom because instead of giving them up for adoption I have just adopted them myself. The ones that were adopted, even though I was sad to see them go, I was also happy to know they were going to good homes and I had been instrumental in their transition. Most of the dogs in the organization I have worked with have either been abused or neglected. I once nursed a schnauzer that was badly injured when it was hit by a car and the owner left the poor dog outside crying in agony until a concerned neighbor called the humane society to rescue the dog. The dog had a broken leg, its shoulder laid bare down to the bone, and numerous cuts and abrasions. A young professional woman adopted him and I’m sure he is now living in the lap of luxury.

The first foster we adopted was Queenie. Queenie’s owners left her in the parking lot of a local shelter because she was 13 and getting too old for them. She was adopted out to a young family but it turned out to be a family in the midst of a divorce with possible domestic abuse involved. Not a good atmosphere for a frightened dog that has been uprooted after 13 years in her home. We then became her second adopted home and I made sure it was her “forever home”. We had Queenie for another four years and finally had to put her down at 17 ½ years of age. For the first year she was very shy but when she finally decided this was her home she settled in and was an extremely good and loving dog.

We now have two dogs—Tasha and Gus. Tasha was another “senior” dog suddenly uprooted. She was ten years old when she was surrendered to the county dog shelter because her family became homeless. She was so frantic the people at the shelter thought she might have a stroke. She was sent to a vet where she continued to pace and pant. She even escaped from her cage and enclosed run several times. When I brought her home I left her in a metal crate for a little over an hour while we went out to dinner and returned home to find her frantically clawing trying to get out of the cage where she had pulled out several of the metal bars with her teeth—after dental surgery. I decided this dog had had enough trauma and needed a safe, calm place to live. I also knew no one would understand why this dog could never again be confined. She has been a loving and protective member of our family for several years now.

We got Gus a few months after Tasha. Gus is a happy-go-lucky Pekingese who had been neglected. As soon as Gus came into the family Tasha calmed down and the two developed a strong bond. Tasha is a stubborn 35 pound terrier mix however; Gus’s presence gave her reassurance. She has settled down and the two are now buddies.

The key to owning more than one pet is giving each equal amount of attention. They will know if one gets more attention or special favors over the other. They are always fed and exercised at the same time and they get the same amount of treats. What I do to one I always do to the other. Recently Tasha had an ear infection and I had to put drops in her ears. When I finished working on her ears Gus walked over and sat down in front of me ready for his ears to be checked. He wasn’t sure what I had done to Tasha but he wanted it also. I scratched his ears and he was happy.

I highly recommend working with a foster or rescue organization for finding a dog because they can tell you about the pet’s personality and quirks. They can also tell you whether or not the dog likes cats, is good with children, has allergies, or other special needs. When adopting from one of these organizations there is someone there you can talk to who can give you pointers on the care and training of the dogs and information on the various breeds. In addition, the dog will also have been spayed or neutered and up to date on all shots. In most cases the dog will also be housebroken and some obedience training, depending upon how much the foster family has been able to work with the dog.

Many good dogs also come from your local shelter. According to the American Humane Association, each year, approximately 8 million stray and unwanted animals are taken in by shelters across the country. Of those 8 million only a little over half find homes and approximately 3.7 million are euthanized. In fact, shelter euthanasia is the leading cause of death for both dogs and cats in the United States.  A shocking statistic!

So, if you need a best friend, one that will be forever loyal and loving, one that will eagerly greet you each time you come home, one that will guard and protect you, then, please, adopt a dog. They know they have been saved from a terrible fate and will repay you a thousand times over.

Please give a homeless dog another chance at life by offering your home as its “forever” home.

The author with her two adopted rescued dogs.

Queenie, another adopted rescued dog with a sad story.

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