Category Archives: Animal Issues

Easter is around the corner …

I’m re-posting this excellent story on rabbits as pets (no bunny-cake-walk!) written for InCity Times by my gal pal, Franny M. We went to UMass Amherst together eons ago and are still gal pals! These days, when we start gabbing on the phone, it’s like we’re back at the UMass vegetarian dining hall, BASICS: I’m carbo loading and drinking 4 glasses of skim milk cuz I’m running and skinny and LOVE MILK. Franny’s eating her BIG SALAD, her signature supper at UMass, listening to me whine BIG TIME. I’m whining to Franny about writing, men, grades, men, Green Island, my father, men, my professors, men, writing … . Franny, being the loving person she is, is taking it all in and offering her gentle, sweet, good advice, which meets my brain and goes NOWHERE. She tells me of her loves, hopes and dreams, too.  We do this for three years. SPECIAL.

You know, if you’ve got college-bound kids, why not check out UMass Amherst? A great university! Thousands of kids, thousands of classes to take, what with Hampshire, Smith, Mount Holyoke and Amherst colleges nearby, hundreds of concerts, art, art, art, great engineering programs (civil, electrical, mechanical, software …) COOL PEOPLE galore. AN ADVENTURE LIKE NO OTHER!

(BTW – I think Fran – a vegan mom with 4 carnivore kids and carnivore hubby!!! Franny!?! – did a terrific job with the story! She loves her bunnies! )  

– Rosalie Tirella


By Franny McKeever, volunteer for the House Rabbit Network

I have a story, not unlike many, when choosing a family pet. We wanted a puppy but my husband had allergies. We couldn’t have a cat for the same reason. So we tried the next best idea which was a rabbit. A rabbit, after all, didn’t need to even be in the house, did it? People kept rabbits in outdoor hutches all the time. My parents did when I was young. I called a breeder and got the name of a hutch builder. He built one he said was a good size for a rabbit. It was 30”x 24”x 14”. He delivered it and we put it on our non-winterized back porch.

We then found a small black Lionhead rabbit at our local pet shop. It was May 1st , Easter time, so there were plenty of baby bunnies to pick from. They couldn’t tell me for sure if it was male or female but were pretty sure it was a boy. We named him Henry. We were advised by the hutch maker to put the bunny on a table when we took him out of the hutch or else he would just go wild and run all over and not want to go back in the hutch. We didn’t listen. We put Henry down and he ran circles around the porch and did these funny, spasmodic jumps in the air we later learned were called binkies, which we could plainly see he was doing out of the sheer joy of movement.

My children and I sat with him as he nibbled our books, climbed all over us and licked our noses. I had no idea that some rabbits would lick you as a puppy does. There were things about rabbits that were so wonderfully surprising. For instance when a rabbit is being petted and feels supremely happy he softly grinds his teeth in a purring sort of way. We were falling in love with this little rabbit. After a while it seemed really cruel to leave him in the cage. We moved all the wicker furniture that he had been chewing out into the yard and bunny proofed the porch. This entailed hiding any electrical wires, keeping any plants out of reach and keeping small things off the ground. When he chewed the wood doorways we gave him apple tree sticks instead.

We took Henry to the vet for a first check-up as we were advised to do and also to see if he was really a he. After a couple more trips to the vet we had to change Henry’s name to Greta. We had a good rabbit vet and not all vets are qualified to treat rabbits which are considered exotic animals. They gave us rabbit diet and litter box training information which I’m pretty sure would not have happened 20 years ago. There has been a slowly growing trend to see rabbits for the sociable unique animals that they are and include them as house pets that can have quality lives in are homes. We were advised to come back when Greta was 4-6 months old to have her spayed. It would cost about two hundred dollars. This would not only help prevent female cancers but also help her to live a better life as a house pet and maybe enable her to socialize with another rabbit without fighting or just as importantly without reproducing. Rabbits don’t need any help in this regard. They can produce between 4-10 babies possibly on a monthly basis. Which only adds to the unwanted rabbit epidemic that exists in shelters and backyards across the country.

We noticed at around Greta’s five month birthday her hormones began to kick in. She was trying hard as she could to romantically befriend a beach ball in our living room. She also began to mark her territory, a hormonal behavior, by leaving fecal pellets in a trail around our house. We made an appointment to have her spayed. We brought her in on a morning and were able to take her home later that day. They gave her a shot of pain medication before she left . They told us to feed her normally and make sure she was drinking within 24 hours and eating within 48 hours. We also needed to watch her incision site and make sure she was healing properly. We watched as she recuperated for a few days and started getting back to herself. She became completely litter box trained again it seemed overnight.

Now everyone in our house was content with Greta. I however began to sense that she was lonely. It seemed sad to see her sleeping by herself alone for hours as rabbits do during the day. Rabbits are crepuscular which means they are most active in the morning and evening into twilight. Though we socialized with her a great deal, as we have four children in our home, something didn’t seem quite right. I had read that although all rabbits have varying desires for friendship they are by nature highly social and in their natural environment live in warrens and are never really alone. They eat together and sleep together and seek comfort, warmth and companionship from one another. Domesticated rabbits also exhibit similar behaviors with people who care for them. Rabbits communicate mainly by way of their own physical movements. It is often easy to guess what some of these movements and postures mean, but sometimes you just don’t understand unless you are another rabbit. I felt Greta needed a friend.

This time I decided I would not go to a pet store. I decided adopting was a better idea. My whole outlook on rabbits was evolving. I found The House Rabbit Network online, a rabbit organization led strictly by volunteers who’s only motive was to rescue unwanted rabbits, find adoptive homes for them and to give the public the best educated advice on rabbit needs and care. They had a website with photos of rabbits awaiting adoption with a description of each rabbit’s own personality traits. They had a hotline I could call for any rabbit questions I had. I was amazed at how dedicated all the volunteers were and so anxious to help me find the right rabbit. They only adopt out spayed and neutered rabbits. This would work out perfectly for me since I was going to need to bond rabbits. Bonding is a procedure that can take weeks or months depending on the personality of the rabbits and how much time is spent working at it. It entails letting the rabbits getting used to each other slowly until they eventually spend more and more time together and with perseverance and some luck become compatible. Rabbits that do bond usually spend most of their time together and it is a truly satisfying thing to behold. Male and female rabbits generally bond more easily than same sex combinations. An HRN volunteer interviewed me over the phone and she then emailed me a list of bunny foster homes to visit.

Greta’s first “bunny date” didn’t go so well. Greta jumped all over the other petrified rabbit. Our sweet, calm little bunny was a maniac with him. We were advised to keep trying but went home a little wiser. This might not be as easy as we thought. The next bunny date was a bit further away. This HRN volunteer had several foster rabbits in large basement. They were there because she couldn’t bear to say no to a homeless bunny. One of the rabbits was in a cage by himself. He was a beautiful little white Lionhead with spots she had picked up from a nearby shelter only days before he was going to be euthanized simply because they lacked space. He had an all too common history. He had been purchased from a pet shop the previous Easter, most likely an impulse buy or a gift for someone who had no idea or concerns about the needs of a rabbit. As a result he spent the next several months caged in a basement with little human contact. His diet seemed to have been neglected as well since he seemed to have no idea that as a rabbit he was supposed to be eating mostly hay and vegetables and not a bowl of pellets (originally designed for farmed rabbits because they were cheap and fattening). He was not surprisingly, ultimately dumped off at a shelter. Yet it could have been even worse. He could have been one of the countless “Easter bunnies” who’s novelty wears off after the holiday when the reality of actually caring for the rabbit sets in.

He could have been one of the many who get released outside. After all, rabbits are woodland creatures aren’t they? Well not these domesticated rabbits. These guys haven’t a clue about how to avoid being the prey animal that they are, or where to keep warm in a blizzard. I was learning all about the Easter rabbit epidemic that exists every year in the spring, when pet stores and countless breeders cash in on the commercial idea of a cute, fuzzy, baby bunny at Easter time. These tiny animals are often taken from their mom even before they have weaned and are physically and mentally ready to go.

Rarely does the consumer understand what this 7-10 year commitment will entail. They don’t know that most of these baby bunnies will grow to be 2-12 pounds. They will need to hop and exercise to be physically fit and healthy. They will need love and companionship of a person or another rabbit for mental health and well being. They know little or nothing of the sensitive digestive systems the buns have and how they can get sick and die almost overnight if not cared for properly. Most think it is fine to keep a rabbit in an outdoor hutch or a cage and just toss some food and water into their little prison cells. No one in their right mind would do this to a cat or a dog. It would be considered inhumane! Yet somehow for a quiet little rabbit this has always been acceptable behavior. So we were happy be able to find a friend for Greta and at the same time be able to give an unwanted bunny a better life. He was surprisingly sweet despite his background but not surprisingly he seemed starved for affection. We tried putting them together and they seemed almost indifferent at first, which was a good sign. We would have to come back for him as he wasn’t yet neutered. After a few more weeks we were able to take him home.

I read about bonding and made numerous calls to a very dedicated volunteer at House Rabbit Network for advice and moral support. If you have never bonded two rabbits together it is very unique experience. We kept Linus, our new rabbit in a pen on one side of the living room and Greta was free to roam as usual and penned separately at night. She became obsessed with the presence of the new rabbit and would spend most of her time nonchalantly inspecting Linus’s area. When they were together she would frequently mount him, not really a sexual behavior so much as a way to assert her dominance and let him know who was who. He would occasionally try to do the same thing. As long as they were not hurting each other this was an acceptable way of their sorting things out. We would take them on little field trips to our small bathroom so they could be in neutral territory. They gradually began to eat next to each other and soon began to hang out together. The day I saw them resting outstretched side by side I knew things were going to be okay. Not long after we took all fences down. Once rabbits are bonded you should really never separate them as they become attached. The whole process lasted about two weeks which I’ve been told is not long. I knew we had done a good thing. Greta and Linus had become buddies.

Rabbits make a wonderful house pet. They are certainly not a “ good starter pet” as I have heard them described. They require an adult caregiver who is educated in rabbit care and has the patience to enjoy the subtle personalities of a rabbit. Children can enjoy them as well but need to be able to respect the rabbit’s space. As a prey animal a rabbit is by nature a nervous creature and those who live with them need to let them grow to trust them. They are funny, sweet, interesting affectionate animals. A rabbit is not the right pet for everyone but for some it can be such a wonderful addition their lives.

5 Circuses that need to follow Ringling and get rid of elephant acts


A few of them come to Worcester! OUR CITY MUST SHOUT: STOP THE CRUELTY TO ELEPHANTS!!!

And … a reminder!

Local gal Deb Young has created an informative and lively FB page on the wild animals forced to perform in traveling shows. Want to learn ALL ABOUT elephants, tigers, lions, bears, monkeys and the work being done in Massachusetts AND AROUND THE WORLD to put an end to their suffering in circuses, roadside zoos, traveling shows?  Then CLICK ON CIRCUS FB PAGE on THIS WEBSITE! (near the photo of the poor baby elephant!)

We’ve gained momentum with Ringling’s decision!!! Let’s PUSH ON!!!!!             – R. Tirella


5 Circuses That Need to Follow Ringling and Get Rid of Elephant Acts Now

Written by PETA March 13, 2015

Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus has conceded: The public no longer supports dragging elephants around the country and forcing them to perform tricks under the constant threat of being hit with a bullhook, so it’s phasing out its elephant acts. These other circuses should accept that the days of elephant exploitation are long over and allow the elephants used in their shows to be retired and relocated to sanctuaries:

1.) UniverSoul Circus

Atlanta law-enforcement officials recently charged both a UniverSoul Circus representative and Larry Carden, the elephant exhibitor performing with the circus, with cruelty to animals after a whistleblower reported to PETA that a handler with the circus forced an apparently fearful elephant to leave the stage by inserting a bullhook—a sharp metal weapon that resembles a fireplace poker—into the animal’s sensitive mouth.

A UniverSoul Circus trainer brandishes a bullhook.

2.) Carson & Barnes

The notorious Carson & Barnes Circus has a long history of abusing elephants. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recently cited the circus for failing to provide an elephant named Nina with adequate veterinary care. Nina—whom a Carson & Barnes worker was caught beating on video while touring with another circus in 2011—has lost 500 pounds in the last several months alone.

Nina, an Elephant with the Carson and Barnes Circus.

Nina, an Elephant with the Carson and Barnes Circus.

3.) Kelly Miller Circus

Kelly Miller Circus is using a lonely, sad elephant named Anna Louise. Elephants are highly social animals who suffer when denied the company of other elephants.

Elephants with the Kelly Miller circus and a trainer with a bullhook.

4.) Shrine Circuses

Shrine Circuses rent their elephant acts from a variety of exhibitors— all of which have deplorable records of animal care.

Shrine Circus elephant rides.

5.) Cole Brothers Circus

The Cole Bros. Circus paid a civil penalty of $15,000 to settle more than ten Animal Welfare Act violations. In 2011, Cole Bros. and its president pleaded guilty to violating the Endangered Species Act by illegally selling two Asian elephants. The circus was ordered to pay more than $150,000 in fines.

Tina and Jewel Cole Brothers Circus

What You Can Do

Urge Circus World, which has historically hired the notorious exhibitor Carson & Barnes Circus, to end cruel elephant exhibits. Also, only buy tickets to cruelty-free circuses that don’t force animals to perform silly tricks.

The late great Sam Simon

By Ingrid Newkirk

There’s a black ribbon hanging outside PETA’s Sam Simon Center in Norfolk, Virginia, this week, and a group of sad people inside it. The building’s namesake—TV producer, writer and director Sam Simon—beat the odds: He lived two whole years past the few months his doctor gave him when he was first diagnosed with terminal colon cancer in 2012. He spent those years living life to the fullest—and helping animals live life to the fullest, too.

Shortly after being diagnosed, Sam asked me to come to the hospital to help him draw up a “bucket list” of ways in which he could help animals.

I had first met Sam back in 2002 when he donated his fee for directing an episode of The Drew Carey Show to PETA because the plot involved greyhound racing and he felt that he could not in good conscience keep the money. He was funny and kind and didn’t mince words if he thought children or animals were being abused.

Sam’s first order of business was to work with PETA to close two dismal, dungeon-like concrete bear pits in North Carolina and Georgia and send the bears to a sanctuary. Despite being gravely ill, he personally traveled to the sanctuary to let the bears out of their transport cages and watched them gallop through the grass for the first time in years with a wide little-boy grin on his face. “I just wanted to have some days where I get to see animals walk in grass for the first time,” he said. “Through PETA, we rescue animals in roadside zoos and circuses. They are some of the most abused animals in the country.”

But Sam was just getting started. During the next two years, which he called the happiest of his life, he helped PETA rescue hundreds of animals, including two chimpanzees who had been held in solitary confinement in cramped, barren cages at (separate) roadside zoos. Sam paid to send them to a spacious tropical sanctuary, where they can now interact with others of their own kind for the first time in decades, climb on “jungle gyms,” lounge under palm trees and do other things that chimpanzees love to do.

He paid to transport Sunder—an elephant who had been chained by all four legs at a temple in India for seven years—to a 122-acre sanctuary, and he paid to build a new fence around it so that Sunder and the other elephants could roam freely 24 hours a day. He purchased an injured racehorse, saving him from a catastrophic breakdown. He bought more than 400 chinchillas from a California breeder, saving them from electrocution and shutting the fur farm down. As he walked through the facility’s cramped rows of cages, Sam whispered to the chinchillas, “This is your last day of abuse. This is your first day of freedom.”

An outspoken opponent of the cruelty that occurs in circuses and marine parks, Sam lived to see the tide of public opinion turn against SeaWorld after the release of the riveting documentary Blackfish. And the last piece of good news he received was that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which he had protested in person, had vowed to take performing elephants off the road by 2018.

A longtime vegan, he set up his own charity, The Sam Simon Foundation, to provide homeless people with vegan meals as well as to sponsor spay and neuter surgeries in low-income areas of Los Angeles. The foundation also rescues dogs from shelters and trains them to assist deaf people and war veterans who suffer from physical and mental trauma.

Funny to the last, Sam was a fabulous friend to all living beings, from children in Nepal to veterans in America to animals the world over. May he rest in peace.

Ingrid Newkirk is the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;

Does that baby bird need help? What to do if you spot wildlife babies this spring!

By Lindsay Pollard-Post

As surely as April showers bring May flowers, spring brings baby animals. Chicks are hatching, rabbits are digging dens and fawns are meandering through meadows, so chances are good that many of us will encounter young wildlife. It can be difficult to resist the temptation to scoop up a vulnerable-looking fledgling bird or squirrel pup, but well-meaning people often hurt—rather than help—animals’ chances for survival by “rescuing” baby animals who are perfectly fine and whose parents are foraging for food nearby.

Baby birds often turn up in backyards. If you see a bird on the ground with a half-inch or more of tail feathers, the bird is a fledgling who is learning to fly, and his or her parents are likely keeping a watchful eye from nearby. Leave the fledgling alone, unless the bird is in a dangerous area or there is a cat or dog nearby—in which case, place the bird on the lowest branch of a tree or shrub.

Featherless birds are nestlings and cannot fly. Place them back in the nest, if you can reach it, or make a new one from a berry basket or other small container with holes punched in the bottom and filled with shredded tissue. Hang it in a sheltered spot near the original nest, and watch for the parents to return. Don’t worry—parent birds will not reject their babies because a human has touched them. Birds have a poor sense of smell and are more likely to be bothered by human noises than human scents.

Young squirrels are often found after their nest has been blown down by a storm. The best way to reunite them with their mother is to place the babies in a box containing a hot-water bottle at the base of a tree. The mother will usually retrieve her young and move them to a safer location, but only if she feels safe—so be sure to stay away from the box and keep dogs, cats and children away, too.


People who see a solitary fawn or a nest of rabbits without their mother nearby often mistakenly assume that the animals have been orphaned. But mother deer nurse and attend to their young only a few times per day, and fawns spend most of their time alone—quiet and almost motionless—in open fields. Similarly, mother cottontail rabbits usually visit their nests to feed their young only twice a day, at dawn and dusk, because it decreases the chance of alerting predators to the nest’s location. If you don’t know whether the mother will come back, try placing a string over the nest. If the string has been moved by the following morning, the mother has returned.


If you find a baby animal who is clearly injured (e.g., has a broken wing or leg, is bleeding or is unconscious); has been caught by a cat, dog or other predator; is weak and shivering or emaciated; is in immediate danger; and/or is definitely orphaned and not being cared for, place the animal in a safe, warm, well-ventilated, newspaper-lined box and contact a licensed wildlife rehabilitator immediately. Never try to care for injured or orphaned wildlife yourself. In most cases, it’s against the law to keep wild animals without the required permits, even if you plan to return them to nature. Attempting to raise wildlife yourself will likely result in frustration and sadness—baby animals require specialized care and do not fare well when raised by humans.

When it comes to baby animals—and wildlife in general—a hands-off approach is often the best one. Knowing when to take action and when not to interfere makes all the difference and can save a life.