Animals

'I pity the fool who doesn't adopt me!'

MEET MR. T!

This week’s featured shelter pet is a wonderful kitty named Mr. T, a 2-year-old orange tabby domestic short-haired cat who loves people! He will follow you around the house and is just the friendliest little guy. Mr. T can be a bit of a bully with other cats though, so it’s best that he be the only cat in the home.

Mr. T comes neutered, microchipped and is up to date on all his vaccines.

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. The adoption center is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information on Mr. T and other adoptable pets at Kent, call 631-727-5731 or visit www.kentanimalshelter.com.

Above, an Eastern screech owl hatchling in New York, revived from near-death after falling out of her nest

By Erica Cirino

‘We are all fragments of the Earth’s collective imagination. From our perceptions of other beings and of places, we create ourselves. From our perceptions of ourselves, we create the meanings of our lives.’         — scrawled in my notes atop a cliff in Grimsey, Iceland, while watching a young puffin preen

The UN’s Global Assessment Report  released on May 6 made something ecologists have been saying for years and years even more clear: Earth has an invasive species problem, and that is humanity. We are taking over land, sea, air and space at an unprecedented pace, and with painful consequences for all other life on this planet we share with eight million other species. 

One million of these other eight million species are directly threatened with extinction due to our ravenous consumption of “resources” — the living and nonliving components of the Earth we choose to exploit — in addition to our straight-up takeover of space. Nonhumans probably classify us as a scourge. Rightly so. 

Above, an Eastern screech owl hatchling in New York, revived from near-death after falling out of her nest

More than 7.3 billion humans are alive today. Less than 80 pygmy three-toed sloths are left in Panama as humans clear mangroves — sloths’ habitat — for farming. There are probably fewer than 10 tiny porpoises called vaquitas alive in the Gulf of Cortez today because humans have been illegally hunting a fish called a totoaba with gillnets that catch and kill nontargeted marine mammals, including vaquitas. 

The world’s last northern white rhino died in Sudan in 2018 after a surge of poaching for rhino horn wiped out the entire species. Insects — which, while they can be pesky when buzzing in our ears or landing on our food — serve as part of the foundation of both terrestrial and aquatic food chains and pollinate the plants we rely on for survival but are dying off due to our intensive use of pesticides. 

The seas are being emptied of fish to feed our growing, and increasingly hungry, human population as tiny and toxic particles of plastic increasingly permeate the marine food chain. The skies are emptying of birds, which are increasingly growing disoriented and crashing into buildings in our brightly lit cities filled with tall skyscrapers. Nonhuman terrestrial animals are being forced to live in shrinking habitats as we clear land, head for higher latitudes thanks to climate change, and off the coasts where rising seas encroach. 

Yet, humans continue to take over the world. I find this fact quite difficult to cope with. 

An Atlantic puffin in Grimsey, Iceland

I am a licensed wildlife rehabilitator who has worked with sick, injured and orphaned nonhumans for more than 11 years, since the age of 15. I believe wildlife rehabilitation is not a solution to conservation issues, but simply a way to help individual nonhumans get a second chance at life, because humans have made life on this planet very hard for other species (and also our own species). It’s a small way to help right some of humanity’s wrongs. 

But when I turned 22, frustrated by all the human-injured wildlife that passed through my hands (shot by BB guns, poisoned, abducted, abused, hit by cars, smashed into windows), I stopped working in the clinical setting and moved to the world of photojournalism. It was my attempt to enlighten humans to the plight of nonhumans — to offer facts, to help our species perspectivize and perhaps empathize — so that maybe some nonhumans would be spared from a destiny of harm instead of needing a rehabilitator’s help. I continue to rehabilitate a few nonhumans every year, because I empathize with them, I know about their natural lives, and I know how to give them first aid. 

 While humans are more than surviving on Earth, we are not exactly thriving: About one in 10 people in the world do not have enough food to live a healthy life. More than 300 million people in the world — including children — are depressed. Climate change is stressing the landscapes people rely on to survive, fueling disease, malnourishment, conflict and migration. If all of this sounds really horrifying, well, it is. But if you think we have it hard, try to imagine how the nonhuman animals must feel, with their world being taken over by just one species: us.

One patch of plastic-covered beach in Rawai, Phuket, Thailand

Animals must reproduce to survive. But humans have already proven that they can do that. Why do we reproduce more than we need to to hack it as a species? A lack of empathy? Pride? Is it something that happens when a human being is so full of confidence about oneself that they believe they should make a reflection of it? Or perhaps it is something that happens when a human being desires the opportunity to live vicariously through a blank canvas that they themselves can paint, can create, to right the wrongs that their parents  —  or maybe their parents-parents  —  made when raising them.

It’s clear we lack empathy, not only for other species but for our own. We are so individually focused. Why have such a strong drive to procreate when the survival of our species in this world is easy, virtually guaranteed? Why not focus on elevating the lives of the less-fortunate humans, and less-fortunate nonhuman beings? Why not use the energy we spend procreating elsewhere, like volunteering to reforest the planet or pick up plastic trash or feed hungry people? Yes, giving birth may fulfill a human’s primal desire to create, but at what costs for the entire world?

Approaching Húsavík, Iceland, by sailboat on an expedition to study the effects of mass tourism, fishing, whaling and plastic pollution

I have always wondered why we celebrate the birth of a human baby, but why there is no champagne and no cries of joy when the duckling hatches from an egg, when the she wolf delivers her pups, when a neonatal shark swims from a pouch. In raising and healing wildlife, I lay no claim. I try, in a very small way, to restore the proper balance of nature, rewilding the world by setting its nonhuman children free.

 As a wildlife rehabilitator, I do not get congratulated each time I set an animal loose into the unforgiving arms of nature. I do not get cries of sympathy when an animal dies in my hands despite my attempts to resuscitate him or her. I do not get the same kind of pride out of raising a baby animal to adulthood as many people do when they raise a baby human. I don’t see a reflection of myself in the peeping owl hatchling or chattering baby squirrel, despite the fact I’ve spent painstaking days and nights, for weeks or months, feeding and cleaning these creatures.

And I don’t need to see that reflection. We are not all the same species, but I do feel that the wildlife and wild places of the world are a part of me. Though humans and nonhumans are separate in DNA, I believe we are still equals as kin on this Earth. We must get out of our own heads to empathize with nonhumans. We must prioritize the raising of all species, not just our own.

Erica Cirino is an international science writer, artist, award-winning photographer and licensed wildlife rehabber. Visit her website at www.ericacirino.com/speaking for a list of free upcoming lectures in Suffolk County. 

All photos by Erica Cirino

Protesters hold signs in front of Port Jefferson Village Hall May 8. Photo by Kyle Barr

A score of people from Port Jefferson and surrounding areas gathered in front of Village Hall May 8 to protest what they said is a potential mass slaughter of innocent deer.

Protesters hold signs in front of Port Jefferson Village Hall. Photo by Kyle Barr

“Hunting tears families apart and leaves countless orphaned … they grieve for them, just like humans do,” said Gabby Luongo, a protest organizer and representative of animal rights group Long Island Orchestrating for Nature. “Trying to manage the deer through lethal means is also inefficient. When deer are killed, more deer will use those available resources, the temporary availability in the food supply will cause those does to breed at an accelerated rate.”

The protesters traveled from nearby areas like Shoreham, Selden and Fort Salonga as well as a few from the villages of Port Jeff and Belle Terre. They said they came in response to news the village has been making plans for some sort of deer management program, particularly some kind of controlled hunt or professional culling.

The protest signs read, “Don’t kill my family” and “Port Jeff: Animals are not ours to slaughter.” The signs also had the LION and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals logos printed on them.

In April, the Village of Port Jefferson hosted a public forum with representatives from the New York Department of Environmental Conservation, along with other federal environmental agencies. Those representatives said deer have had a particularly harmful effect on the Long Island environment, especially in them eating vegetation and ground cover, including tree saplings that would replace the ever-shrinking forest growth of Long Island.

Mayor Margot Garant said PJ Village has not yet made a decision about its deer policy. Photo by Kyle Bar

Village code still curtails hunting by restricting the use of any firearm or bow and arrow within village limits. However, Mayor Margot Garant said they have received a letter from the New York State Attorney General, Letitia James (D), stating the village does not have the legal capability to regulate hunting, as that is a state matter.

“The community has a lot to think about and address, the board of trustees has a decision to make, whether we change the code or keep the code in place and wait for that code to be challenged,” Garant said during the public portion of the meeting, attended by the protesters. “We are not here supporting the hunting of deer.”

The mayor said that no decisions have yet been made on the issue of deer population, and at the meeting left it open to any forms of suggestions, saying for the moment, the code restricting hunting remains on the books.

However, in conversation after the April deer forum, the mayor said if a person had the right permits and brought a hunter onto their property, and the hunter was staying a lawful distance from other residents property, the village could not and would not go after those residents who broke the code.

“I think we have to take a really hard look at what we’re doing, not just with deer, but all the other animals that pay the hard price for our greed and our non-consideration of them,” Shoreham resident Madeleine Gamache said.

Protesters hold signs in front of Port Jefferson Village Hall. Photo by Kyle Barr

Protesters at the meeting said instead of a hunt or cull, the village should instead look into nonlethal sterilization programs, such as that currently taking place in Head of the Harbor with the Avalon Park & Preserve. Scientists from Tufts University and The Humane Society of the United States have taken a $248,290 grant from the park to fund the six-year study.

“We would like to see some kind of birth control,” said Belle Terre resident Yvonne Kravitz. “We’re very much opposed to having these beautiful animals hunted and killed.”

Others called for the village to change the code to allow for higher fencing, as current fencing is restricted to no more than 6 feet.

Still, others were adamant the village needs to step up and perform a culling or controlled hunt of deer.

“I don’t know one person from where I live who doesn’t want you to go out and do a big cull,” said Port Jeff resident Molly Mason.

Garant said the village had a meeting with the Village of Belle Terre May 7, and the two villages together barely make up more than 4 square miles. A healthy deer population would be 15 deer per square mile but the local mayors have said the real number could be several hundred per square mile. Belle Terre has had 33 vehicle collisions with deer on Cliff Road alone, according to the Port Jeff mayor.

The Village of Belle Terre voted at the beginning of this year to allow hunting within the village. Since then Mayor Bob Sandak said hunters have killed approximately 100 deer so far.

MEET CUTTER!

This week’s featured shelter pet is Cutter, an 8-month-old Black Mouth Cur mix who was rescued from a high kill shelter in Texas. 

Cutter is extremely sweet and loves children. He is also a good size, weighing in at just 30 pounds and is neutered, microchipped and up to date on all his vaccines. All this pup needs now is a family of his very own. Come on down and meet him!

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. The adoption center is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information on Cutter and other adoptable pets at Kent, call 631-727-5731 or visit www.kentanimalshelter.com.

Ryan Starzee

Northport resident Ryan Starzee achieved the rank of Eagle Scout, the highest rank awarded by the Boy Scouts of America. Starzee, 17, is a member of Troop 5 in East Northport and a student at Northport High School.

To become an Eagle Scout, a Scout must meet several requirements, including developing, organizing, directing and completing an approved project to benefit a nonprofit organization.

A puppy at the Guide Dog Foundation uses the puppy-up curb stool

For his Eagle project, Starzee built training tools for The Guide Dog Foundation, a Smithtown organization that provides trained guide dogs to blind and visually impaired individuals from around the country. With assistance from about a dozen boys from Troop 5, Starzee built four “Puppy Up-Curbs” and four “Puppy Adventure Boxes,” which were requested by the organization. The Puppy Up-Curbs are durable wooden curbs that are used to train the dogs. The Puppy Adventure Boxes are similar to baby gyms: They are constructed with PVC pipes, and they feature balls, cups, bells and other items hanging down from plastic cords for puppies to play with and learn about their environment.

For many Scouts, the biggest hurdle to becoming an Eagle Scout is finding a suitable Eagle project. While many nonprofit organizations could benefit from Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts doing a project for them, some are so busy trying to get all of their work done with limited staff that they do not have a system in place to meet with Scouts, brainstorm ideas and fill out the necessary paperwork.

The Guide Dog Foundation, however, provided Starzee with a list of projects it needed done. At their initial meeting at the foundation’s offices, Starzee and a representative from the organization decided together which items he would build. He then had to get the project approved by the Boy Scouts.

Puppies at the Guide Dog Foundation explore one of the four “Puppy Adventure Boxes”

“I was very excited to do a project for the Guide Dog Foundation,” Starzee said. “For one thing, I love dogs. And this is a great organization that provides an important service. And they were very nice and helpful to me.”

To raise funds for the materials for his project, Starzee held a car wash at Pep Boys Auto Parts & Service in Commack.

“Pep Boys has been very generous, allowing other boys in my troop and I to hold our Eagle car washes in their parking lot,” Starzee said. “I held my car wash last September and I was very lucky with the weather. A lot of boys from the troop came out to help, the drivers were very generous and we raised $345.”

In addition to completing his project, Starzee had to fulfill other requirements to make Eagle, including earning a minimum of 21 Merit Badges, which recognize ability in activities like swimming, orienteering, first aid, camping and wood carving. Starzee earned 25 Merit Badges in total.

“It was a great feeling of accomplishment to finally become Eagle,” Starzee said. “I worked very hard, but I had a lot of help, from my family, from kids in my troop, from my Eagle coach, David Hunt, who spent a lot of time meeting with me, and from the adult leaders in my troop, who have volunteered their time for many years to help me get to this point.”

Above, Mia in the role of Toto at Theatre Three Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions Inc.
Jeffrey Sanzel with Mia

Theatre Three in Port Jefferson will open the family musical “The Wizard of Oz” on May 18. Appearing in the role of Toto is the lovely Shih Tzu mix Mia Donatuti. Director Jeffrey Sanzel sat down with Mia to talk about her life, her love of cheese, and her upcoming Theatre Three debut.

How are you today, Mia?

I’m good! It’s good to be here!

Well, we’re very glad to have you.

Thank you!

So, we’ve been rehearsing now for a few weeks

Yes, we have. It’s fun! So many people and smells!

That’s very true. We thought it would be fun to find out more about you.

OK!

Where were you born?

Oh. I’m not sure. I know I came to my home from the Kent Animal Shelter in 2014.

And how old are you now?

A lady never tells her age!

Of course. Where do you live now?

I live in a house. With doors. And windows.

That sounds very nice.

It is!

And where is the house?

It’s in East Patchogue. I live with my mommy, Dawn, and my six doggie siblings.

What’s that like?

It’s really terrific! Some of my siblings are big and some are small. The littlest is five pounds. The biggest is ninety-two pounds!

That’s a big family.

Mommy has also fostered a lot of other doggies. I’ve lived with twenty-seven foster doggies since I came to live there.

That’s great. Do you have a favorite sibling?

Well, I’m the Princess so …

Got it.

I like Mommy best. I share my toys and bedding with my brothers and sisters but I don’t share my Mommy’s right cheek for sleeping time.

Fair enough.  

Do you have any cheese?

Uh, no. Not right now. But I’ll get some.

Thank you.

I understand you have a job.

It’s kind of a job but it’s more than that. When Mommy’s daddy went into a nursing home, Mommy brought me for visits. After Grandpa came home, Mommy decided to keep bringing me there on Sundays. So I become a service dog. I like the people SOOOOO much. I spend most of my time with the people who don’t have visitors or lots of family.

That’s great.

Sometimes, they line up to hold me. Once, this really nice lady tried to run away with me!

Oh, my!

Another time, another really nice lady carried me around like I was her baby for an hour and sang me nursery rhymes. She was very sweet.

Was it hard to get certified as a service dog?

No. I just needed to show them that I was focused and not rambunctious. Which I’m not! It wasn’t hard. I love going.

What do you like best about being a service dog?

Sitting on people’s laps. I like attention.

Could we talk about ‘The Wizard of Oz’?

Sure! 

Is this your stage debut?

Well, no … I actually I played Toto in an elementary school production of “The Wizard of Oz.” Mommy’s niece played a munchkin. It was fun to work with the young kids. But this is my first time on a real big stage.

I’ve noticed that you don’t bark.

No. It’s not ladylike.  

What are you looking forward to most about playing Toto?  

Being with the cast. Everyone is so nice. And I’m going to get to meet people after the show.

Really?  

Uh-huh! Anyone who wants can have their picture taken with me and Dorothy and the Scarecrow and the Lion and the Tinman after the show. That’ll be fun! I’ll get to meet so many new people. I like meeting new people.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I like getting out of the house by going grocery shopping or to the movies. I like to go out. I like dressing up. I’m a bit girly. I don’t like bows in my hair but I like sweaters.

Anything else?

I like to eat. Liverwurst. Cheese. Bacon. Cheese.  

Do you have any words of encouragement for other dogs who might want to get involved in theater?

It’s a great experience for doggies with a good disposition to see and be seen!

Thank you for taking the time to talk to me today.

You’re welcome. Cheese, please?

Photo by Brian Hoerger, Theatre Three Productions Inc.

“The Wizard of Oz” plays May 18 through June 22 at Theatre Three, 412 Main St., Port Jefferson. For tickets and information, call the box office at 631-928-9100 or visit www.theatrethree.com. Stay after the show for a photo with Dorothy, Toto and their friends.

MEET PATTI!

This week’s featured shelter pet is Patti, a 1 1/2 year old domestic short haired cat with soft black hair and stunning yellow eyes. Patti has a quiet disposition but loves to play with toys and is also great with children. She comes spayed, microchipped and up to date on all her vaccines. All this sweetheart needs now is a loving home.

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. The adoption center is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information on Patti and other adoptable pets at Kent, call 631-727-5731 or visit www.kentanimalshelter.com.

MEET ELEANOR!

This week’s shelter pet is Eleanor, a 3-year-old domestic short-haired pastel calico with beautiful green eyes. If she looks a little scared, it is because she doesn’t understand what has happened to her. Unfortunately, her human has passed on and no other person she knows was able to care for her. Now she’s safe at Kent Animal Shelter waiting for a new family (she likes other cats) and a fresh start.

She comes spayed, microchipped and up to date on all her vaccines. Come and visit with her! She would love to meet you! Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. The adoption center is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information on Eleanor and other adoptable pets at Kent, call 631-727-5731 or visit www.kentanimalshelter.com.

MEET BIRDIE!

This week’s featured shelter pet is a 2-year-old Corgi mix named Birdie. Rescued with her seven puppies, from a high kill shelter in South Carolina, she is safe now at Kent Animal Shelter.

All of her babies have found nice homes. Now it’s Birdie’s turn! Just look at those beautiful brown eyes — so hopeful that she will get to enjoy spring with a new loving family. She comes spayed, microchipped and up to date on all her vaccines. 

Kent Animal Shelter is located at 2259 River Road in Calverton. The adoption center is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 

For more information on Birdie and other adoptable pets at Kent, call 631-727-5731 or visit www.kentanimalshelter.com.

By Matthew Kearns, DVM

This past Sunday just before the clinic closed we had a call for a dog that had a laceration she received while running around with her owner. Our clinic is only open a few hours on Sundays and the owner was grateful we could see her and her dog. However, what should she do if we weren’t open until the following day?

 Emergency clinics are expensive. Could there be a way to manage the wound until your regular veterinarian opens again? Before proceeding make sure to make your own safety a priority as much as your pet’s. It doesn’t do anyone any good for you to get seriously bit or scratched. When a pet is in pain and afraid, there is the potential for aggression. A leash wrapped around the muzzle prevents biting. Worst case scenario would be placing a thick towel over the pet to prevent biting (even if it is just to take them to the nearest clinic/emergency center).

First, stop the bleeding. If the wound is superficial and there are no larger blood vessels involved, direct pressure is usually enough. I was told in school that singing the “Star Spangled Banner” (either in one’s head or out loud, your choice) while applying pressure to the wound is the appropriate amount of time needed to stop minor bleeding. 

During this time it would be a good idea to pet and talk to your pet to calm them and lower blood pressure. After a few minutes recheck the wound. If the bleeding continues, try again. If the bleeding restarts a second time, then do go to the nearest clinic/emergency center.

Once the bleeding stops we can evaluate and clean the wound. What is safe to use to clean the wound? Running the wound under a hose or tap will remove dirt and other debris. Studies have shown tap water does not cause significant tissue damage when compared to isotonic saline. 

If you have an over-the-counter antiseptic like povidone iodine (Betadine) solution even better. Remember to dilute the Betadine solution. The exact appropriate dilution is 1 part Betadine to 9 parts water; but I was told that if the solution has the color of strong tea that is close enough. 

Many people ask about hydrogen peroxide solution. I remember that hydrogen peroxide was the “go to” antiseptic when I was a child and got a cut or scratch. It is an excellent antiseptic, but it tends to destroy more tissue and slow the healing process overall. It has also been implicated in the entrance of air emboli into the bloodstream when used to clean deeper wounds or abscesses. These emboli can have serious, sometimes fatal results. If you have no other antiseptic but hydrogen peroxide, then dilute it 50:50 with water.

Lastly, cover the wound. It is true that when a pet licks at a wound it does remove debris and dead tissue, but it also introduces bacteria from the pet’s mouth, which slows or prevents healing. To cover the wound one can use some gauze and an ACE bandage. Now, one can even pick up self-adhesive bandage material from the pharmacy or store. Just remember that the self-adhesive material tends to tighten as it dries out (after it is removed from the packaging).

I hope this helps. Please remember that these are temporary measures to allow you to wait for your regular veterinarian to open. I would recommend always having the wound evaluated by your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Dr. Kearns practices veterinary medicine from his Port Jefferson office and is pictured with his son Matthew and his dog Jasmine. Have a question for Dr. Kearns? Email it to leisure@tbrnewspapers.com to see his answer in an upcoming column.

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