Category Archives: ways to help

Cute Videos Dangerous Without Context

slowlorisbeingtickledMy Facebook feed, like those of most people I know, is filled with videos of animals being cute in various ways, often without context.  I have seen baby chimps feeding baby tigers, the infamous “mama tiger with piglets” photo, and many others.  I try not to forward these videos and images, because the lack of context often conceals terrible things.  Today I saw another example: the “slow loris being tickled” video, excerpted in the gif at right.

Here is a brief summary of why this apparently-very-cute video should not be forwarded.  Basically, the lack of context makes this video appear to show a cuddly pygmy loris engaged in a playful interaction with its owner, and implies that lorises make good pets and enjoy human interaction.  This message is incorrect and spreading it can cause trouble for both lorises and humans.

In fact, the arms-raised posture you see in this video is a defensive one used when a loris is frightened.  This intimidated loris is feeling uncomfortable and is raising its arms for better access to the brachial glands in its armpits.  It can lick these areas to create a “venom” which can damage other lorises and cause a serious reaction in humans.

Lorises do not make good pets.  They, like most wild animals, are not designed to live in human habitations and they do not enjoy being handled.  The (illegal) pet trade (along with the trade in “traditional medicine“) is decimating the populations of wild lorises.  “Pet” lorises often have their teeth forcibly removed to reduce their ability to produce a venomous bite.  They often die of stress even before being sold as pets.  Reposting the above video without context only reinforces the message that lorises make good pets, encouraging more people to buy them, and fueling the trade.

What can you do to help?  Before reposting a cute video of an exotic animal doing something cute, do a simple google search to try to get some context.  Do not repost videos or pictures of exotic animals being treated as pets.  Instead, point out why they do not reflect reality and/or proper treatment of the animals involved.  Don’t just be a link in the reposting chain — break it.

For contrast, here is a video of a domestic kitten genuinely enjoying a playful interaction with a human.  As a domesticated animal, this kitten is descended from generations of animals used to coexisting with humans, and makes a great pet.  Instead of reposting a video like the loris video, consider posting a video like this one.

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How You Can Help The Moira, NY Horse (Or Any Sad Animal)

Moira NY Horse in Need

Let’s repost this with hope it reaches someone who can help >This horse belongs to Frank Burgess and Brenda Waite of the Best Road in Moira NY. The state police have been alerted to the condition of their horses. Please help to keep the heat on their owners so that they are taken away. Not fair.

EDIT: These horses have been helped!  According to the comments below, the NY State Police have been informed about their situation.  It’s not entirely clear whether the horse(s) have been moved, or whether they are still at the site, but various sources strongly indicate that action is being taken.  Also, it seems that Brenda’s last name is Wattie, not Waite.  Thanks everyone!

UPDATES: the first news article, from the Utica Observer-Dispatch.

The local paper, the Daily Courier-Observer, pitches in with its own update on 8/27/13.

And the beautiful mare above is named Dreamer, and has arrived at the Adirondack Equine Center for rehab.  See some photos here!

This morning my Facebook feed turned up the above photo, with attached caption.  It exhorted me to forward the photo on, until “it reaches someone who can help”.  It occurs to me that simply sharing a photo on Facebook is not helpful to this horse in any way.  How can I help this horse?

First, some minimal research.  Like photos of lost children, photos of abused animals tend to persist indefinitely.  Long after the crisis is over, people will continue to forward the photos, trying to help without first checking to see if the animal is even still in danger.  Also, not every forwarded photo of an emaciated animal has the full story — there is no way to verify in this case that the caption matches the photo.  Maybe this animal is already under veterinary care, or this is a “before” photo “borrowed” from an unrelated animal rescue site.  Before taking action, I should check to see if someone else has seen this first.

A quick Google Search By Image for the above picture reveals no immediate matches, so next I search for the names and location in Google.  This reveals only the Facebook posting, which appears to be rather recent because there are not a lot of links.  I also try phrases like “animal control burgess waite Moira NY” and get nothing, so…okay, our initial search reveals that there’s nothing on Snopes or any large sites yet to tell me if this is real or not.  (Often, during research I’ll find local newspaper stories or police blotter postings confirming the story or filling in details.)

One link in particular (as well as the original “share” I saw on Facebook) describes the Facebook post as originating when “[poster] shared Rob Carlsen‘s photo.”  The original post may in fact be here (I looked for Rob Carlsen on Facebook)…it contains the above information and nothing else.  (It also has about 14,000 shares as of this moment…!)  It also does have at least one comment on it from someone promising to look into this, so there’s hope!

In this case I’ll assume, because I love horses, and I’d like to help this one, that this photo has some basis in reality.  Just sharing it on Facebook will only result in the propagation of the photo.  How do I help this horse, from where I am?

First, locate the proper authorities: Google will also tell me where the local humane societies, right near Best Road in Moira, NY, are.  Clicking on the individual links gives me web sites and phone numbers:

  • Potsdam Animal Shelter (315) 265-3199 potsdamhumanesociety.org
  • North Country Animal Shelter (518) 483-8079
  • Tri-Lakes Humane Society (518) 891-0017 tlhsny.webs.com
  • Massena Humane Society (315) 764-1330

The New York State Police has an office in nearby Malone as well: (518) 483-5000.  Searching for “Moira, NY horse rescue” turns up a couple of helpful links:

(I have not researched any of these sites, past looking at their web pages.  I can only assume they are legitimate organizations — either way, calling them will not hurt!)  The next step is to call or email these institutions and politely ask if they have investigated this photo.  Since it’s roaming around on Facebook, they are probably receiving 200+ calls an hour about the picture, so remember to be polite, be brief, and do not waste their time.  In the unlikely event that they don’t know about the photo yet, you’ve informed them of its existence.  If they do know, you’ll be (gently!) nudging them to fully investigate.  If I had friends in New York I would probably mention this to them as well — it is likely they know of other places one could call to try to get confirmation that this horse is, in fact, in trouble, and, if so, to get help to it.  If you have something to offer (time, money, information) you could also consider contacting the lady who answered the original post and offered to drive by.

I suspect that, very shortly, there will be news stories about this horse telling us what really happened to it — I leave the investigative reporting to the people on the ground in New York.  However, when I find out the rest of the story I’ll be sure to add it to this post, to try to close up the story of this horse so when other people find the photo and research it, they’ll be able to see whether their help is still needed or not.

Much better than just hitting “share”, don’t you think?  And not much more effort!  Good luck, anonymous horse!

Happy Thoughts: Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, FL

Cameron the lion at Big Cat Rescue, Tampa, FL.

Cameron the lion at Big Cat Rescue, Tampa, FL.

When I first had my eyes opened to the Machine, my first reaction was one of hopelessness: This problem is huge!  How am I supposed to do anything about it?

The easiest thing to do, if you want to help but don’t know where to start, is to support a group which is already doing what you want to do.  If you like exotic cats and the idea of people keeping these animals as “pets” — often chained in basements, locked in miniscule cages, fed inappropriate diets, declawed and even defanged to make them “safer” to keep — is anathema to you, then you may wish to lend your support to Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, Florida.  They have been working to protect big cats since the mid-nineties.

Alex the tiger at Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, FL.

Alex the tiger at Big Cat Rescue, Tampa, FL.

I recently got a chance to visit their facility and was extremely impressed.  They have excellent credentials, an enlightened, realistic and positive outlook, and their staff and volunteers are dedicated and intelligent.  Like all animal facilities, Big Cat Rescue has made some errors, but they are open and honest about them and are working to learn from them and improve.  These are good people, providing rescue for large cats as well as public education, especially for children, which is (I believe) the primary mechanism by which we will eventually be able to change the world.

Tonga, a rare white serval, at Big Cat Rescue, Tampa, FL.

Tonga, a rare white serval, at Big Cat Rescue, Tampa, FL.

They do not breed, buy, sell, or even unnecessarily interact with their animals.  Those cats who do not like humans are kept in areas where tour groups will not bother them.  They don’t sell “picture yourself with a tiger”-type photo opportunities (although they do have excellent photography opportunities without having you in with the cats) and they don’t take the cats to schools — although having a live animal helps to get people interested in your talk, it can send absolutely the wrong messages about keeping exotic cats as pets.  The human staff really are at the service of the cats, and it shows.  This place is wonderful, it’s well-run, and it’s worth some support.

They have an excellent selection of YouTube videos if you’d like to visit virtually, and of course the images in this post were taken there.

Can’t donate money?  There are a lot of other ways you can help out!  Don’t like big cats?  There’s probably another organization in your area that can use your help.  The Machine is a damned big and scary thing, but: a) every little bit helps, and b) working together we can take that mother down.  Happy thoughts!