When Zoos Go Too Far

It’s been a while since I ranted. At least I think so… admittedly, my brain can be a sieve sometimes. At any rate, I guess it’s about time for another one … and on one of my favorite topics too, one with which I have a love-hate relationship.  Namely, zoos.

When do zoos go too far?  What is the magical line between research, conservation, and exploitation?

There are two types of people; those who love to go to the zoo to see animals they will never otherwise see in real life, and those who despise seeing majestic animals behind bars.  In my experience, there really is no grey in this one; you either love it or hate it.

April the giraffe became a world-wide celebrity a while back.  The world watched daily, heck several times a day, as she waited to give birth to her calf.  Make no mistake, I count myself among that number. Her due date came and went, and still we watched.  Finally, her calf, a male named Tajiri, made his adorable wobbly legged entrance into the Animal Adventure Park in Harpursville, New York, and people watched as April tirelessly cared for her newborn son.  Then, as suddenly as she broke into fame, April was largely forgotten…but not before bringing in a pretty hefty revenue stream to the for-profit theme park where she lived.

April is now pregnant again, and I am pretty sure the zoo will once again cash in on her experience.  But what of the now forgotten Tajiri?  Well, according to this, he is now one year old and he will be loaned out to other zoos for their giraffe breeding programs.

I am enraged at this entire venture.  For one thing, with all the funds April raised for the zoo, you would think she deserves an updated pen.  Instead, they took “her” money, applied it to other areas of the zoo (not necessarily habitats), and now need more money to upgrade the giraffe section.  Only once they have earned the money to do the updates for the giraffe pens, will April be reunited with her calf.  God only knows what they plan to do with her current calf when she is born.  Holy exploitation, Batman!

Most deliberate zoo breeding is strictly for money.  The surplus animals are sold to other zoos, roadside zoos (which are a whole different class from “regular zoos” and a rant best left for another time), fake safari parks, and reports have been made that some unfortunate animals are sold for “canned safari hunts.”

To me, this is all just another example of using animals without regard for them.  April’s pen is badly in need of an update, yet they bred her again?  Just like some rescue facilities that have too many dogs, cats, horses, or whatever they cater to, if a zoo cannot take care of the animals they have they should stop bringing in more animals, and for God’s sake, stop breeding them.

Admittedly, some parks and zoos do keep animals for conservation and research purposes … there are some very good to excellent facilities around the country. Others, however, keep animals in unnatural, inhumane conditions, and then are shocked when these animals are unpredictable, or worse, (*gasp!) act like animals.  It’s not rocket science, folks.  Elephants, whales, lions, heck even penguins were not made to be penned for someone’s amusement.  Personally, I think it has the potential to drive the animals insane. Regardless of your views on zoos, surely, we can all agree that when these animals are placed in zoos, they become our responsibility.

Part of that responsibility is to make sure that conditions for these animals are as good as they can possibly be, not to keep breeding more animals into a bad situation to make simply money for the organization.  It’s funny to me, the people who protest puppy mills, where dogs – both female and male – are kept in horrid conditions and continuously bred for money, are probably the first ones sipping a slushee in front of the giraffe pen at the Animal Adventure Park.

As for April’s newest pregnancy, consider this:  if we follow her latest experience, are we part of the problem?



Guilty Feelings

This is a Cracked graphic after all, so I’m not sure how serious it’s meant to be.  All I know is, serious or not, it’s complete malarkey, to put it nicely.  I read another article recently, this one on the more serious side, that stated dogs don’t feel and/or show guilt.  I had an animal behaviorist friend years ago tell me that as well.  Pfft.  Please.

I’ve had dogs all of my life and every one of them had a wide range of emotions, guilt and knowledge of wrong doing being strong among those states of mind. Every. Single. One.  I’m sure other dog owners would agree.

Right now I have two dogs and two cats. The cats I’ll get to in a minute. As for the dogs – if one of them does something wrong, even when I’m not around, I know it immediately upon my return. They give themselves up by their behavior alone. It could be minutes after the actual event, it could be hours. But they know whatever rule they broke in my absence is going to get them “the look” no one likes or get them the disappointed “talking to” they like even less. Even the non-offender knows a rule was broken and keeps away from the rule-breaker in case any guilt by association should rub off. Even the dimmest bulb in the pack is self-aware.

Normally, I’m greeted at the door as if I’ve been gone on safari for two months and everyone was concerned as to where their next meal or snuggle was coming from and they’re just terribly thankful I somehow found my way home to them to take care of their every need.  This is on a good day. Which is most days. But on the off day that I come home to a mutilated treat bag or a mess left for me that I’d rather not have left for me, one dog is simply gone, which she never is. She’s nothing if not underfoot. Until someone, whether it’s her or another, has done a dastardly deed. Then she’s under the bed. She’s under the covers. She’s under anything in order to hide away from any association whatsoever with said mess. The other one, while he stays out to greet me because, well, because he loves me and can’t help himself, he’s not his normal bouncy self.  You see, he’s a tattler.  Even if it’s on himself.  He lets me know a mess has been made, where it is, and if he could talk, I have no doubt he’d spill the beans on just who made it.

So, yeah.  Dogs have memory (duh). They have guilt. They know what’s right and wrong in their own little sphere of reality.

As for cats.  Not so much.  Oh, they have memory. They know what’s right and wrong in their own little sphere of reality.  They just don’t care.  And that would be because they’re jerks. Now, my cats have rules, just like the dogs do and I started training them early. For instance, they’re not allowed on the counters or the tables. They follow this rule religiously…well one does anyway. The other does when I’m around. But I’m not naïve enough to believe the ne’er-do-well follows it when I’m not around. I’m not an idiot. I know my cats. Did I mention they’re jerks? They’re also not overly bright. Which is good for me. For instance, the worst behaved of the two, Holly (aka the ne’er-do-well, aka the evil one), doesn’t realize that sound travels. So while I might not see her on the counter, I certainly hear her jump down as she notices I’m walking into the room (because she is smart enough to know not to be caught red-pawed in the “no cat zone”). But does almost getting caught bother her at all? Nope. She saunters off like nothing happened without a care in the world.

Holly (again with Holly) also likes freeze-dried dog treats. If I have a dim moment and leave them out on the counter instead of putting them away, she will steal them and tear into the bag and eat them all.  Or at least try. Sometimes she fails if the force field of plastic is very strong. Sometimes the treats just end up smooshed to powder thanks to her destructive tendencies. When caught it’s because, again, sound travels, and since the house is small it’s easily determined that someone is desperately trying to break into a bag of treats. Does she care? No. She’s not on the counter now. Now she’s on the floor. So in her mind no rules are being broken. The bag of treats is irrelevant. And really, she simply cannot be bothered with feeling badly about her behavior.  So she just gets up and slowly walks away in a very condescending way. That’s called being a jerk. I think I mentioned that before.  This is the same cat that steals my spot on the bed whenever I get up.  Even though she’s not supposed to be in my spot or touch my things, like my table. Oh, she immediately gets up when I return, and goes back to her designated area of the bed…but with nary a guilt-ridden or remorseful look backwards.

Life with my pets in some ways mirrors having raised my kids. There are way more bodily functions than I have ever wanted to contend with in my lifetime. Attitudes are similar. And I’m constantly trying to figure out who the hell did what with about as much success.


dogs' memory