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Articles:

Keeping Your Summer Animal-Friendly

Published 06/15/02
Source: Animal Issues, Volume 33 Number 2, Summer 2002

Sometimes in the excitement of vacations and summer fun it’s easy to overlook the needs of animals, whether they be our companions or those we encounter in our summer travels and recreations. The tips below will help you ensure that your activities this summer will remain friendly to animals.

At Home

Direct sunlight can be a killer. Keep aquariums out of the sun. Provide plenty of cool water for your animals, and make sure they have shade when they need it. Watch that your dogs or outdoor cats don’t get sunburned. Prevent fleas and ticks. (For more tips, see “Safeguarding Companion Animals from Summer Heat and Pests.”)

Don’t bring the dog along to leave in the car while you go shopping. A little heat outside the car can quickly make it very hot inside. On a summer’s day of only 85° F, for example, even keeping the windows slightly open won’t stop the inside temperature from climbing to 102° in 10 minutes, to 120° in 20 minutes. A dog whose body temperature rises to 107-108º will within a very short time suffer irreparable brain damage — or even death.

For a dog overcome by heat exhaustion, immediately soak her down with water and take to a veterinarian as soon as possible.

This information is so vital that, over the years, API has printed and distributed millions of Hot Car Flyers.


Animal-Friendly Camping

While offering an escape from our everyday burdens, camping rekindles our appreciation for nature and our resolve to protect it. When we camp we inevitably intrude on the lives of wild animals.

Conflicts between humans and wildlife abound at campgrounds, most commonly when animals are attracted to campsites. Reduce conflicts by limiting access and removing attractants. Keep a clean camp. Black bears have an excellent sense of smell and are attracted by food odors. Dirty dishes and garbage may lure bears to your camp. Wash dishes immediately and dump the water away from camp (at least 150 feet away from any lakes or wetlands).

Many animals (raccoons in particular) have an uncanny ability of opening things, so ice chests and trash receptacles need lids reinforced by rope or a large rock. Store food and sweet-smelling toiletries in the trunk of your vehicle while you are sleeping or away from the campsite, or in a canvas bag or pack suspended from a tree limb so bears and other animals can’t reach it. (Do not store food in your tent.)

Be aware that deer, chipmunks, raccoons, and other animals look friendly, but their sharp hooves or claws, teeth, or antlers can cause serious injury to humans, plus they may carry diseases such as plague and rabies.

If a bear enters your campsite, remain calm. Bears are usually easily scared away. Make sure the bear has a clear escape route, and then yell, wave, or bang pots and pans together.

Don’t feed wildlife. Human food does not contain the nutrients that wild animals need. Many animals require more moisture than is in the typical human handout. As a result they can suffer dehydration, lose fur patches, and subsequently die of exposure. Animals who become habituated to handouts — including bears who hang around campgrounds even if no one is there — eventually come to be regarded as “nuisance animals,” thus opening the door to animal control that may mean death to them.

Responsible camping does not endanger the environment. Follow these guidelines:

  • Stay on roads and trails.
  • Whenever possible, use existing campsites.
  • Observe all fire restrictions and use only fallen timber or bring your own firewood to your campfire. Make sure the fire is completely extinguished before leaving it unattended.
  • Use only biodegradable/phosphate-free soaps and detergents.
  • In areas without toilets, bury your waste and used toilet paper in a shallow hole (6-8" deep) at least 200 feet from water sources, campsites, or trails. Cover and disguise the hole with natural materials.
  • Take all your garbage, recyclable materials, and food scraps out with you along with garbage left by previous visitors.
  • Leave natural surroundings as you found them.

Ethical Birding

Birding is the fastest growing outdoor activity in America today, numbering millions of people who actively go looking for birds, who make attempts to identify the species they see, or who attract birds to their gardens.

Some birders are so keen to find rarities and build ever larger lists of birds seen and identified that they put at risk the birds they seek. Be careful in birding:

  • Don’t use tape recordings of birdsongs to lure birds into viewing range. The bird may stay too long away from her nest.
  • Don’t get too close to nests, particularly in colonies; you might leave a trail a nest predator can follow.
  • Don’t disturb birds when they are exhausted from migration, or when they have need to feed.
  • When attempting to get a good look at a rare species, don’t trample rare plants underfoot.
  • Many a house-owner has come to bemoan the fact that their feeder has attracted some great rarity that, in turn, has attracted hordes of birders.

Fortunately such problems are relatively few, and recognized by birders themselves. The American Birding Association has published a Code of Birding Ethics that may be found at www.aba.org/about/ethics.html or from

The American Birding Association
PO Box 6599
Colorado Springs, CO 80934
719-578-9703

The Code of Birding Ethics elaborates these principles:

  1. Promote the welfare of birds and their environment.
  2. Respect the law, and the rights of others.
  3. Ensure that feeders, nest structures, and other artificial bird environments are safe.
  4. Group birding, whether organized or impromptu, requires special care.

Birding promotes conservation and generates greater appreciation of our non-human neighbors, from back gardens and city parks to the remote, wild corners of the globe. Let’s keep it benign.


An Animal-Friendly Green Thumb

Keep animals in mind when planning and growing your garden, and remember:

  1. The presence of birds and other free-roaming animals is generally a sign of healthy land and water.
  2. The more measures needed for plant health and growth, the more likely a plant is not native to the area or well suited to conditions where it was planted.
  3. An animal who eats a lovingly grown tomato or a clump of beautiful black-eyed Susans is obtaining needed nutrients in a human-manipulated landscape. Gardening, though pleasurable and meaningful, is a luxury for most of us whose food-gathering does not depend on our gardening.

Insecticides and other pesticides hurt not only endangered species but members of thriving species, such as squirrels, woodchucks, opossums, rabbits, and raccoon. Pesticides can kill at high blood levels, and at low levels affect vision, reflexes, and other faculties, hence some birds collide with power lines and some humans entangle with farm machinery. Extremely low doses of atrazine, a common weed killer, can cause male frogs to develop multiple sex organs, sometimes both male and female.

Birds of many species are more abundant where people heed warnings against pesticide use for lawn maintenance. The grass may be greener, but birds and other animals — including companion dogs and cats — can only visit at the risk of death or illness. Instead of using pesticides, check your local library for books on integrated pest management methods.

Some animal species exist in much larger populations due to human land-use practices and do well in human habitat. Even if you care about animals, you may want them to obtain food elsewhere than your garden.

You can dissuade animals without harming them. Fencing, non-toxic repellents, scare devices, and other methods are effective. Patience and persistence are the key, since animals and ecosystems are complex, and animals are constantly shown to be more intelligent than many people previously believed.

API's Humane Ways to Live with Deer and our other Humane Ways wildlife brochures outline humane approaches. Most public libraries provide good sources; plant nurseries are often very helpful regarding local conditions; extension services and agriculture schools offer assistance; and professional landscapers can help, too, especially if you make your humane intentions clear.


Animal-Friendly Entertainment

Make your summer fun reflect your concern for animals by refusing to patronize events or facilities that exploit animals. Urge others to do the same. Avoid these particularly objectionable attractions:

  • Circus — Animals used in the circus spend the majority of the year imprisoned in small cages, traveling from show to show. Tigers are rarely allowed out of their cages, which are often barely large enough for the cats to turn around. Elephants spend the majority of their time chained in place. Training endured by circus animals is almost always based on intimidation; trainers must break the animals’ spirit to control them.

When the circus comes to your town, attend the circus as an educator not a patron by handing out informational flyers to those attending the circus. While those you speak to may attend the circus anyway, they may make a different choice next year after they have had time to think about the lives the animal are forced to live in the name of entertainment.

API provides activist kits, circus flyers, and billboards for activists who want to stop circus animal abuse. For more information see our Circus Campaign or contact API at 916-447-3085.

  • Marine Theme Parks and Swim with the Dolphin Programs — Patrons who visit such facilities see only abnormal animal behavior, since all aspects of the captive animals’ lives are manipulated to present entertaining animal experiences. Animals are rarely seen mating, fighting, foraging, migrating, or interacting with other species. Habitats are artificial, lacking the size, complexity, and ecosystem dynamics found in native environments. Marine mammals simply can not behave normally when deprived of their natural habitat and social structure. The real message conveyed is not one of respect but rather that it’s acceptable to abuse nature.

“Swim with dolphins” programs (available for an additional fee) treat dolphins like large bathtub toys rather than the complex, intelligent, and wild animals that they are. People who participate in such programs may suffer physical injuries including lacerations, infections, and broken bones. Currently, the USDA only issues permits to run the facilities but does not regulate them. In 1998 the USDA adopted new regulations regarding swimming with dolphin programs but promptly suspended them as a result of pressure from the captive dolphin industry.

The promotion and popularity of "swim with dolphins" programs at captive marine mammal facilities has misled and confused the public about appropriate wildlife interactions. This has helped foster dozens of commercial operations, especially in Hawaii and Florida, that promise patrons opportunities to physically interact marine mammals in the wild.

While API encourages people to enjoy viewing wildlife in their natural habitats, we also encourage responsible viewing that avoids ways that disrupt the animals’ natural behavior. Vessels and swimmers can easily disturb dolphin schools, especially during resting periods. The cumulative effect of this type of interaction on dolphin schools is unknown but if humans attempt to interact with dolphins, whales, and other popular marine mammals during most of their daily resting period, this could interfere with important behaviors such as feeding, nursing, and breeding.

People love marine mammals, hence marine theme parks and “swim with dolphins” programs are so alluring. Unfortunately commercial businesses have capitalized on our natural attraction to these animals by exploiting them and misleading the public about appropriate marine mammal interactions — putting people and marine mammals at risk.


Vacationing with an Animal Companion

A little advance research and keeping to some simple do’s and don’t’s can make traveling with your companion animal one of life’s great joys.

  • Does your animal companion like to travel? You can acclimate your companion to travel with a few short rides, or use a carrying case, but some animals may be too ill or physically impaired to withstand the rigors of travel, even if your veterinarian can supply medication or sedatives to reduce or eliminate motion sickness, constant agitation, and crying.
  • Are animals welcome? Whether staying with friends along the way, or at hotels, motels, parks, or campgrounds, find out in advance. When making reservations, be prepared to put down a deposit, pay extra, and be interviewed about your animal.
  • Before a long trip, have a veterinarian examine your animal. Ask your vet if she knows of a vet in the area you will be traveling. Keep the telephone numbers handy.
  • Keep your vehicle cool with sunshades on back windows and the tailgate window. Make sure the air conditioner works. Tie a plastic bag full of ice cubes in front of the duct. Use a fan that plugs into the cigarette lighter as well.
  • Keep your animal cool with freezer blocks (used for picnic coolers). Place a large freezer block covered by a sheet under your animal, making sure she isn’t shivering. Provide plenty of fresh, cool drinking water.

When You Pack Don’t Forget

  • Rabies/vaccination records, license, recent photos.
  • Leash, collar, and a new ID tag with your animal’s name, your name, your cell phone number, contact information at your destination.
  • Familiar things, such as food, blankets, bedding, and toys, to provide stability.
  • Pooper scooper, litter supplies, plastic bags, cleaning supplies.
  • Grooming supplies such as brush, comb, toothbrush, shampoo, wet-naps, clippers
  • First aid kit that includes peroxide, cotton balls, bandages & wrap, antibiotic ointment, flea spray, buffered aspirin, and tweezers (for when you encounter ticks).
  • All needed prescription medications.

On the Road

  • Stop often for exercise and potty breaks. Bring water from home or buy it distilled or purified, since water from places other than home can cause stomach upset and diarrhea. Stick to your regular feeding routine and give the main meal at the end of the day or when you’ve reached your destination.
  • If animals ride with their heads outside car windows, dirt particles can penetrate the eyes, ears, and nose, causing injury or infections. Excessive amounts of cold air taken into lungs can also cause illness.
  • Grooming (bathing, combing, nail trim) before the trip will make the animal more comfortable.
  • Small animals can travel in kennels secured in the car; seat belts and harnesses are available for larger animals. Sudden stops can hurt animals just as much as people.

Hotel Animal Etiquette

  • Call ahead to reconfirm the hotel is animal-friendly and get current information on restrictions.
  • A ground floor room will allow quick outside access.
  • Keep your dog or cat off beds, chairs, or bedspreads, or at least cover hotel furniture with a blanket to diminish hair and/or odors.
  • If you must leave your animal alone in the room (try not to!), provide toys, turn on the television or radio for companionship, place a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door, and inform the maid or front desk.
  • Feed and water your animal in the bathroom or put the dishes under a towel for easier cleanup.
  • Walk your dog off the property, and always clean up after him.
  • Keep your dog out of the swimming pool.
  • Keep your dog leashed while on hotel property so other guests may be at ease.

API’s fact sheet, “Traveling with a Companion Animal,” provides more detail to make your mutual vacation a happy one.


Choosing a Humane Summer Camp

When the cry of “No more teachers ... no more books” rings across North America, packs of excited youngsters swap their school jackets for camp tee-shirts. Camp, a great place for children to unveil their potential and discover the world, can also be a special environment that helps young people develop positive self-esteem and enhance their social skills while having fun.

With more than 8,500 day and resident camps in the United States, finding a summer camp which shares similar compassionate philosophies as your child may seem a task of impossible measures. Longstanding camping traditions such as fishing, pig roasts, animal husbandry, and roasting hot dogs around the campfire perpetuate animal cruelty. You may want to reconsider whether these activities, common in camps around the states, are suitable for your child’s vacation.

  • Fishing — Teaching children to drag a fish out of its home environment, causing untold stress and possibly fatal harm, all in the name of harmless sport is not what some consider a positive lesson in valuing life. There are many outdoor activities to enjoy without causing pain and suffering to animals. And fish are animals.
  • Animal Husbandry — Farm Programs at camps offer hands-on experience with a wide range of farm animals including puppies, kittens, cats, horses, mules, goats, bunnies, chickens, roosters, and cows. Campers are given the opportunity to bottle-feed baby animals and gather eggs from the chickens. Highlights of the summer often include the birth of an animal, a calf from a pregnant cow, traditions eagerly awaited by the whole camp. Also offered are regular visits to farms, and an agricultural show, activities that enhance the complete farm experience. But campers are never told that at the end of the summer these animals are shipped off to slaughter.
  • Petting Farms and Zoos — Many animals held in camp petting zoos and farms are bored, cramped, lonely, and unable to perform normal feeding, mating, and other social behaviors. Animals also carry diseases. In most cases these diseases can spread to humans, resulting in problems ranging from annoyance or slight discomfort to life-threatening illnesses.

Don’t be fooled by “zoo camps” which offer programs claiming to be designed to spend time learning about animals, getting an introduction to conservation. and gaining an overall appreciation for wildlife. The fact is most children do not learn appreciation or respect for wild animals who are kept in the confinement of unnatural environments.

Don’t despair! Luckily, budding animal activists can find a variety of camps that will satisfy their compassion toward animals. What might excite you about a camp’s program might not always fulfill your child’s expectations. It is often a matter of knowing your options and asking the right questions.

  • What are the philosophy, goals, policies of the camp? — These should include not only the size, history, and ownership of the camp but the objectives for the summer. You want to ask, Are they animal friendly? What is their attitude toward humane education? Find out.
  • What does the camp program include? — How varied, specialized, structured, competitive are the activities and which are mandatory or elective? Are there any activities that may not be suitable for your child, such as fishing, hunting, fur or leather crafts, animal husbandry, etc.?
  • What if my child wants to be around animals? — For children who love to be around animals, several SPCA branches and other shelters host summer youth day camps. Activities and programs vary but the main focus is on kids interacting with animals. Campers learn basic companion animal care and respect for animals in a fun-filled environment with lots of hands-on experience with dogs, cats, rabbits, guinea pigs, and other shelter animals as appropriate.

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