Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Friday, May 31, 2013

Corruption Skulduggery

"I don't recall an Olympics without corruption. It's not an excuse, obviously, and I'm very sorry about it, but there might be corruption in this country...."
Jean-Claude Killy, head, International Olympic Committee coordination commission for the Sochi games

Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, listens to Jean-Claude Killy, Chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for Sochi 2014, during a February summit. Russian President Vladimir Putin, left, listens to Jean-Claude Killy, Chairman of the IOC Coordination Commission for Sochi 2014, during a February summit. (Alexei Druzhinin/RIA-Novosti/Associated Press )

It's a world class spectacle, held in a country that has every desire, much as China did before it, to display its grandeur and its ability to fund grand infrastructure for the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. If China could manage, by temporarily shutting down its carbon-belching coal-fired chimneys in Beijing to briefly welcome the sun to shine benevolently upon international visitors to the Summer Olympics, Russia can build outstanding venues and upgrade bridges, roads, hotels, trains, port, airport and power grid.

It all gets costed into the final tally. A building spree that includes of necessity all the venues for the various sport events; an Olympic stadium, three Olympic villages, a ski jump, hockey arenas, Alpine facilities, and more, much more. The original estimate announced in 2007 -- once the Olympic Committee had selected Sochi, beloved of Vladimir Putin and close by where he has had another sumptuous palace built for himself -- to host the 2014 games stood at $12-billion.

Russia has ample revenues from its large gas energy fields and its monopolistic provision to much of the European Union to keep them from freezing in winter, dependent on the good graces of the man who occasionally turns rather grumpily nasty with them, and who himself owns an significant share of the country's energy giant, Rosneft. A riches-generating source for his old KGB cronies as well, who now own their own significant shares.

But corruption doesn't start and end with the President, it permeates the society at all levels. And Boris Nemtsov, one-time deputy prime minister has become a critic of the Kremlin, and he contends in a report just released that up to $30-billion of state funding has been 'liberated' into the bank accounts of Russian officials and associated businessmen. Inflating the original cost to prepare for the Olympics to rather considerably more than was originally estimated: $51-billion.

Cost overruns do not explain the differential. Nor does inflation. Nor does the doubling of infrastructure and other costs in preparation for mounting the Olympic Games over time. The 2012 London Summer Olympics came with a pricetag of $14.3, and it was a brilliant affair. The difference between the initial and final costs of Olympic Games in the past 14 years, according to Mr. Nemtsov's figures on average was two-fold.

Russia's new costing of $51-billion far outstrips that normal range of expectation. Alexander Zhukov, president of the Russian Olympic Committee, claims he requires time to analyze Mr. Nemtsov's report and the figures contained therein, but he is confident that Russian prosecutors and the Audit Chamber have kept well abreast of Olympic costs.

Someone isn't touching base; state auditors at Russia's Audit Chamber have repeatedly spoken of their concerns relating to the skyrocketing overruns. They issued recommendations that those overruns be perused by prosecutors. To which Mr. Zhukov responds that additional infrastructure had to be built at some of the venues, raising costs.

Sochi is reputed to be a beautiful city, situated as it is on the Black Sea, a lovely vacation venue. Certainly President Vladimir Putin holds it in high esteem. And the city is set to benefit hugely from hosting the Olympics. Good thing the rest of Russia doesn't mind, those hard-working citizens who haven't the personal wherewithal to bask in the beauty of the city. A city that they have bequeathed with their hard-earned funds, with additional perquisites.

And generous abundance as well for on-the-take, grasping, venal officials and businessmen. Ta-dum!

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Asteroid 1998 QE2 Has a Moon!

Radar observations of asteroid 1998 QE2
Radar observations of asteroid 1998 QE2 show it has a moon orbiting it.
Photo by NASA/JPL-Caltech/GSSR

Say hello to my little rocky friend: Asteroid (285263) 1998 QE2 has a moon!
The asteroid pair is currently on a relatively near pass of Earth, sailing by us at a closest approach of just under 6 million kilometers (3.6 million miles) later Friday. Asteroids that get this close are of particular interest to astronomers, because that means we can use radio telescopes to bounce radar off them, which can lead to a better determination of their size, shape, speed, and position.

Using the Goldstone telescope in California, astronomers were surprised to find that 1998 QE2 is actually a binary asteroid, a big rock being orbited by smaller one. Here’s the video of the two (the moon is the bright spot seen moving vertically over time):

Statistically, it’s not shocking that 1998 QE2 has a moon; about 16 percent of near-Earth asteroids bigger than 200 meters across have companions. The primary is about 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) across, as previously estimated, and the moon is about 600 meters (2,000 feet) across. More observations are planned over the next few days, including using the Arecibo radio telescope, which will provide higher-resolution data.

Mind you, the radar data is a bit weird. It’s not showing you an actual picture of the asteroid. The vertical axis is showing distance to the asteroid—if there’s a hill you’d see it poke up toward the top, and a crater would be a depression. The horizontal axis, though, is actually the velocity at which the asteroid is spinning. The faster the rock spins, the more smeared out it is left to right; one that doesn’t spin at all would look like a vertical line. I know, it’s weird, but it’s the way this kind of radar observation works.

Not only that, but we’re illuminating it with the radar pulses, so when you look at the picture or video, it’s like the radio telescope is off the top of the frame, shining down on the asteroid. Imagine holding an orange in one hand and a flashlight in the other; you’re illuminating one side, not the whole thing. Radar reflections are strongest from the point on the asteroid directly under the radar beam, so that becomes the bright edge in the image. The reflections tend to get weaker near the edge, so it fades toward the bottom, giving it that odd crescent shape.

The moon looks curiously bright in the radar imagery, but I’m not sure why; I haven’t heard any comments about this yet—that may simply be because it’s small, so we don’t see it fade as much toward its edges like we do in the bigger rock. Think of it like having all its light compressed into fewer pixels, so each pixel is brighter.

From these data we now know that the main asteroid spins about once every fours hours at the most—previously it was thought to have a 5.3-hour spin. That old estimate was based on its light curve—that is, brightness variations as it spins. Imagine a dark ball with a single white spot on it. As it spins, you’d see it get brighter every time the white spot comes into view, and that can be used to peg its rotation. It’s not always 100 percent accurate, though, as it wasn't in this case. There are several dark features on the asteroid that may be craters, but they might also be patches of material that absorb radar so they simply look darker. We should know better soon as more data come down.
The moon spins more slowly—you can see it’s not very smeared out in the radar data. It probably takes a day or so to rotate once, but the actual rate is still not well known.

The very presence of the moon is a good thing. By measuring how long it takes to go around the primary, the mass of the primary can be found using math known for centuries (the more massive the big asteroid, the faster the moon will go around it at a given distance). We also know the size of the primary, so that means we can find its density, and therefore what it’s made of (probably mostly rock). Those numbers should be coming in over the next few days.

And finally, using the radar we get the precise position and velocity of the asteroid over time, and that allows a much better determination of its orbit around the Sun. We know that 1998 QE2 is not a threat to Earth, but it’s still nice to show that more clearly.

Of all the data we’re getting on this asteroid pair, the radar is the most precious because of the treasure trove we get from it. Just by bathing it in radio light and watching for the reflection we get a better orbit for it, we see it’s a binary, and we can determine its mass and even composition… all from millions of kilometers away.

That’s pretty amazing. There’s nothing like going to an asteroid and seeing it up close—and there are plans to do that—but we can learn a lot from the safety of our home planet too. Not bad for a bunch of apes who only recently figured out how to get into space in the first place.

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No rise in cancer rates after Fukushima disaster - UN

BBC News online - 31 May 2013
Damaged reactor 3 at Fukushima nuclear plant. File photo The Fukushima nuclear plant was crippled by the deadly earthquake and tsunami on 11 March 2011
Cancer rates are not expected to rise as a result of the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, UN scientists say.

The evacuation of thousands of people shortly after the accident in 2011 sharply lowered their exposure to radiation, a draft report concluded.

The World Health Organisation has said local residents have a slightly higher risk of developing certain cancers.

Reactors at the Fukushima nuclear plant were crippled by an earthquake and tsunami that killed some 19,000 people.

It was the world's worst nuclear incident since Chernobyl in 1986.

The findings of the draft report were presented by the UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (Unscear) in the Austrian capital, Vienna.

Committee member Wolfgang Weiss said the decision by the Japanese authorities to evacuate large numbers of people had proved to be the right one.

"If that had not been the case, we might have seen the cancer rates rising and other health problems emerging over the next several decades," he added.

Unscear's report also stated that "no radiation-related deaths have been observed among nearly 25,000 workers involved at the accident site".

Studies after Chernobyl linked cases of thyroid cancer to radioactive iodine that contaminated milk. But Mr Weiss said that had not been the case in Japan.

The report was prepared by 80 scientists from 18 countries and will be published in full later this year.

The findings contradicted a report published by the WHO in February, which said the risk of cancer for those living near the nuclear plant had risen.

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Thursday, 30 May 2013

Did You Know that Some Shelters in Canada ‘Euthanize’ Dogs and Cats in a Gas Chamber? Ban the Use of Gas Chambers in Canada!

This Saturday June 1st 2013 there will be a peaceful protest held just across the street from the SPCA Outaouais located at 132 rue De Varennes, Gatineau, Quebec to once again ask the SPCA Outaouais to STOP killing dogs and cats in the SPCA Outaouais’ Gas Chamber - a device that is both barbaric and cruel.

According to the
SPCA Outaouais' Director - the shelter takes in an average about 9500 animals a year, of those about 2200 are adopted out. 25% of the dogs and cats that enter the shelter make it back out alive..the other 75% are 'euthanized', many leave this earth having been put to death in the cruel and brutal Gas Chamber. Of that 75% that are euthanized - a large % of these animals are both healthy and adoptable.
All those involved in this protest hope that this event will bring to light a well kept secret in the community, and in Canada:

  • That shelter dogs and cats are suffering agonizing deaths in:
    • The SPCA Outaouais’ gas chamber;
    • And in other 'shelters' across Canada... 
  • But just try to goggle a list of such shelters;
    • You will come up with little to nothing in the way of a list;
    • Why? 
    • Because the shelters that use gas chambers like to keep their 'little secret' quiet.
It is ironic (that an organization) that has titled itself and promotes itself as a SPCA (‘Society for the Protection of Cruelty to Animals’) has to-date  – refused to shut down the use of their Gas Chamber. Humans excel at finding reasons to excuse themselves from the brutality of the decisions and choices that they make and then they seek to attack others (or hire lawyers) in order to exonerate themselves of any responsibility for the cruelty, abuse pain and suffering that they cause.
Historically the SPCA Outaouais has been quite successful in keeping the community ignorant of the SPCA Outaouais’ use of their Gas Chamber to kill dogs and cats. There has been very little outcry about the use of the Gas Chamber due to the  simple fact that most residents have no idea that this barbaric device is being used to kill dogs and cats in the Gatineau facility. And while the use of this device is still legal in Quebec most shelter facilities choose not to use such methods to kill the animals in their care. The choice to use the Gas Chamber IS a matter of choice – it is not a matter of economics.

To fund the facility and its operations (including maintenance of the gas chamber and supply of gas for its deathly use) the SPCA Outaouais relies heavily on donations from the community. Could this be the reason why the SPCA Outaouais has been less than open and communicative to the community about its use of the chamber?  
When interviewed by two of the protest organizers/leaders, the representatives of the SPCA Outaouais – the head Veterinarian and their Lawyer had much to say in defence of their choice to use the Gas Chamber to ‘euthanize’ shelter dogs and cats.  Before discussing that, lets’ talk about the Gas Chamber and what the term ‘euthanasia’ really means…

Euthanasia, by definition, is the act of inducing a painless death (from ancient Greek eu-thanos, meaning good death).
Meriam-Webster Dictionary - the act or practice of killing or permitting the death of hopelessly sick or injured individuals (as persons or domestic animals) in a relatively painless way for reasons of mercy.
Gas Chamber
The Gas Chamber was first developed in 1921 by the lawmakers in the State of Nevada. The Gas Chamber was later embraced for use by the Nazi’s as their primary means of mass murder. The use of the Gas Chamber for killing humans and animals has since been made illegal in many places around the world, including in its place of origin. When employed to kill humans, death in a gas chamber can be extremely slow and painful, as demonstrated in several high-profile executions from the 1980s and 1990s. One of the more infamous was that of Jimmy Lee Gray in 1983. Mr Gray frantically gasped, moaned, and slammed his head into a steel pipe for ten minutes as the cyanide slowly took effect. In 1996, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that execution by poison gas constitutes cruel and unusual punishment. The fact is – death by gas chamber is no less cruel for a non-human animal.
Twenty-two (22) States in the U.S.A have made it illegal to use a gas chamber to kill dogs and cats with the latest being the State of Texas. This past week of May 20th, 2013, Governor Rick Perry enacted a law to prohibit the cruel practice of ‘euthanizing’ animals in a Gas Chamber. Texas State Senators voted unanimously to ban animal shelter Gas Chambers.  Now, Congressman Jim Moran of Virginia is proposing a bill to have gas chambers banned in all 50 States. Sadly, when it comes to animal rights, Canada may not be quite as civilized a place as you might have thought. And that is where protests like the one to be held this Saturday are so important.
Gas Chamber Use - Why We Must NOT Remain Silent on This Issue…
Gas chamber euthanasia is undeniably cruel...
During the gassing process carbon monoxide is pumped into the gas chamber. The carbon monoxide slowly suffocates the animals to death.  Dogs and cats that are gassed in the chamber suffer indeterminate minutes before dying. The time spent suffering varies:
  • For some it may take 10 or 15 minutes;
  • For others the time of suffering can last a long time – 30 minutes, and hour;
  • Some animals do not die during the first gassing and must endure a second round of gassing.
  • In Alabama, on October 3rd 2011 Daniel the beagle made headlines in the dog advocacy world. Daniel was ‘put’ into a gas chamber along with 17 other shelter dogs, all the other dogs died except for Daniel.
    • Daniel’s case is pretty unique – because he was not tossed back into the chamber for a second round of gassing.
    • You can read more about Daniel here on Daniel the Dog’s Blog Site.
  • There are very few happy stories when it comes to animals and gas chambers.
  • You can read eye-witness accounts here.
Sometimes multiple animals are forced into the chamber. The stress and panic causes them to fight for their last breath. The resulting fights result in physical injury – one more brutality in the face of all that they (the dogs and cats ‘put’ into the gas chamber) must suffer from the gassing The struggle to breath as they are slowly suffocated by the carbon monoxide;
  • The pain of organs slowly shutting down;
  • Disorientation as their brain struggles to function as it is slowly starved of oxygen;
  • And the panic of the other dogs or cats in the chamber – distress feeds distress just as it does in humans.
A truly horrible way to die.
It is well past time that Canadians stand up, take notice and tell those having jurisdiction that enough is enough!
The SPCA Outaouais says to quote...
 “we only put healthy animals in the gas chamber” and “we only put one dog in the gas chamber at a time”.
So is that supposed to exonerate the SPCA Outaouais, to relieve them of the label of cruel? 
The SPCA Outaouais puts multiple cats in the gas chamber together, but the cats are each placed in a separate crate within the gas chamber.
So is that supposed to exonerate the SPCA Outaouais, to relieve them of the label of cruel?
Not in my opinion and certainly not in the opinion of other people in the community and abroad.  

How well kept is the secret regarding the use of he Gas Chamber by the SPCA Outaouais?
The following is an extract (from the report made back to the members of the protest group) in which one of the group organizers/leaders witnesses just how well hidden the truth has always been…
“Rita and I asked a worker at the front about healthy, adoptable animals being euthanized and were told it does not happen. They remain at the SPCA until adopted. Yet when Rita queried the Director (of the shelter) about this, it was indicated healthy, adoptable animals are euthanized in the gas chamber (but also by EBI and T61 depending) unlike the sick, injured, pregnant or under age 4 months animals which cannot be put in there”.
A logical conclusion one can draw from this observation is that shelter staff are instructed NOT to let the public know that healthy adoptable animals are killed in the gas chamber.
A client that I recently worked with, told me about a friend of hers who had recently quit working  at the SPCA Outaouais. The woman quit becasue she could not stand to hear the dogs crying as they died in the gas chamber. The only reason my client knew about the gas chamber was becasue her friend had told her about it. Of all the clients I work with in the region there are very few that are aware of the fact that a local shelter kills dogs via the use of a gas chamber.

It is common practice for many ‘shelters’ that gas one dog at a time to ‘tether’ the dog in the gas chamber so that the dog will not thrash about too much and leave a bloody mess. After all the real reason behind gassing animals (rather than using EBI) is convenience…so you can be sure that last thing the shelter staff wants to be is inconvenienced by having to clean up a bloody mess.  The SPCA Outaouais did not divulge wither they tether the dogs that are put into the gas chamber alone.
Dogs and cats that end up in shelters are there because a human has let them down - sometimes intentionally and many times unintentionally. Sometimes the dogs human passes away and no family member is willing to take the once beloved dog or cat. Should that animal then die a painful death? 
Regardless of the reason why a dog or cats ends up in a high-kill gas chamber using shelter - the outcome is injury upon injury to that animal - that they should be made to suffer an agonizing death is unacceptable to me and I would hope it would be unacceptable to you as well. 
As a cross-poster (facebook and twitter) of dogs in high-kill shelters, as a human that lives her dailylife with ten dogs – eight of whom are rescues, I know from very personal experience that dogs deserve better from human beings. About 50% of the dogs that I work with (my client’s dogs) are rescues from shelters and rescue groups.  There are so many amazing dogs that end-up in high-kill shelters including those that use gas chambers.
The American Humane Society Speaks Out on the Use of Gas Chambers for Euthanasia…
“EBI is the most humane method of euthanizing shelter animals.  IF successful, the gas chamber can take up to 25 to 30 minutes to end an animal’s life, whereas EBI causes loss of consciousness within 3 to 5 seconds and clinical death within 2 to 5 minutes.  EBI causes animals to lose consciousness and brain function before their vital organs shut down.   In a chamber, however, animals lose consciousness and brain function only after their vital organs shut down, causing prolonged suffering and distress.  EBI is the method preferred by the National Animal Control Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Association of Shelter Veterinarians, and The Humane Society of the United States.  Old, neonatal, and injured animals are often biologically unable to absorb the gas as readily as larger or healthier animals, which prolongs trauma and stress. “
And From the Human Society of the United States (HSUS) on the use of Gas Chambers…
“The HSUS considers use of the gas chamber in a shelter setting to be unacceptable under any circumstances. “Euthanasia of dogs and cats in shelters is a tragedy that must come to an end through spaying and neutering of pets, increased adoption of pets from shelters and other approaches, but when an animal must be euthanized, it’s critical that it be done in the most compassionate way possible. Direct injection of approved euthanasia drugs, by which the animal quickly loses consciousness without experiencing pain or distress, is the most humane method currently available,” said Inga Fricke, director of sheltering and pet care issues for The HSUS. “Lesser alternatives like carbon monoxide gas chambers should never be used in shelter settings.”

The reasons the HSUS considers gas chambers inappropriate in shelter settings include…

  • Gas chambers cannot provide humane euthanasia for shelter populations: 
  • The animals euthanized in shelters are often old, young, ill or injured; none of these animals can be humanely euthanized in a gas chamber. 
  • Even healthy adult dogs and cats will suffer stress just by being placed in a gas chamber, making their death inhumane.
  • Gas chambers pose grave dangers to staff: 
  • Gas chambers pose great physical and psychological harm to staff. 
  • Staff must handle, transport and place animals into the chamber, putting them at risk of bites and scratches. 
  • Animal care workers have also been injured and killed by carbon monoxide, a colorless, odourless and tasteless toxic gas.
  • Euthanasia by injection is less expensive: 
  • Studies have proven that it is more expensive to operate a gas chamber than it is to purchase and use euthanasia drugs. “
Am I Promoting a Campaign of Hate Against Shelters That Choose to Use Gas Chambers?
No. And in regards to the SPCA Outaouais - no I am not, nor are those wonderful ladies who have worked so hard to organize and lead the protest against the use of the gas chamber by the SPCA Outaouais
I am not, saying that the SPCA Outaouais does zero good in the community, but obviously there is huge room for improvement...

According to the SPCA Outaouais' Director - the shelter takes in an average about 9500 animals a year, of those about 2200 are adopted out. So, about 25% of the dogs and cats that enter the shelter make it back out...the other 75% are 'euthanized'.

Like I said, there is huge room for improvement! 
While shelters - that still use a gas chamber to kill shelter dogs and cats, may try to bully you into silence, it is of the utmost importance to move forward and speak out. 
Gas Chamber using Shelters STOP trying to Bully Those That Truly Care About Dogs and Cats into Silence!
Why would a shelter need to bully people into silence if they – the shelter, really felt that what they were doing was ethical, moral and humane?
During the meeting held between two of the SPCA Outaouais protest organizers/leaders, and the SPCA Outaouais 1representatives the SPCA Outaouais lawyer attempted to bully the protest group into silence. Here to quote from one of the Protest leaders present at that meeting…
“Lastly, as we were about to leave, the lady who i cannot recall who she is, showed me and Rita a lot of our FB postings and SPCA admitted to us they were monitoring this board. I told them that was fine; they could do such. This lady stated she was a lawyer and there were other lawyers willing to work for free with her, to possibly go up against us for ruining SPCA Gatineau's reputation and spreading false information”
Well, all I can say is shame SPCA Outaouais, shame on you. You are the authors of your own reputation, the responsibility for the decisions you make are yours. 
I did post on our FB Group Protest page in response to the SPCA Outaouais’ lawyer’s threat.  Here is an excerpt of my response to the lawyer's threatening words...
“Speaking about the REALITY and FACTS around a certain situation does not qualify under ‘ruining reputation and spreading false information.’ In FACT multiple people on this FB page have STATED that…
  • The SPCA Outaouais performs a needed role in the community;
  • That the SPCA Outaouais does do good;
  • However the good that the SPCA Outaouais (or for that matter anyone else) creates does not exonerate that person or organization for choices that they make that are otherwise in nature (i.e. less than good, harmful, etc. when there are viable alternatives);
  • We are not responsible for the choices of the SPCA Outaouais – the SPCA Outaouais is responsible for their choices;
  • It is not this FB page that ‘ruins the SPCA Gatineau’s reputation’, if SPCA Outaouais chooses to continue use of the Gas Chamber, than it is the SPCA Outaouais that is effecting their own reputation;
  • And while the SPCA Outaouais does some good in the community so do other SPCAs HSs and rescue groups in the area – one main difference is that the SPCA Outaouais is using a Gas Chamber;
  • Fact or fiction?
  • It is Fact;
  • It is choice.”
“Are we here to hate, make war on, despise, etc. the shelter – no, not as far as I am concerned. Are we here to bring light to the fact that the SPCA Outaouais has chosen to use a Gas Chamber to kill dogs and cats – yes we are. Are we here and is it our intention or purpose to ‘ruin’ the SPCA Outaouais’ reputation No, not in my opinion. Are we here to bring to light the issue of the use of the Gas Chamber yes. Are we here to request that the SPCA Outaouais stop using the Gas Chamber to kill dogs and cats – yes. Is that a fair and reasonable request – yes.”

“Should you be threatening us with legal action – well you can do so, however your threat is unfounded and in so threatening us, you may very well be the cause of damage to your own reputation as people may question and wonder why you are threatening people for speaking out about facts and truth.”
1 The SPCA Outaouais representatives in attendance at the meeting were the shelter Director who is also a veterinarian and the SPCA Outaouais’ Lawyer who is also a member of the SPCA Outaouais’ Board of Directors.
Economics of The Situation – Is Lack of Funding a Valid Excuse to Choose Using a Gas Chamber?
One of the participants in the protest discussion brought this very excellent example to light…
Sampson County Shelter's Journey to Change...
Sampson County in North Caroline made the choice to dismantle their gas chamber May15th, 2013. This shelter is much poorer than the SPCA Outaouais, yet Sampson County had the integrity, ethics and morals to move forward with shutting down their Gas Chamber. You can read the story here. In addition it is important to note that although Sampson County is a small and poorly funded shelter they work very hard to keep their rate of adoptions high and euthanasia low – currently their rate of euthanasia sits at 30%, with the rate of adoptions steadily on the rise.  A small shelter moving in the right direction, having left excuses for making the wrong choice far behind – it is a great story; you can read about it here
The SPCA Outaouais Says It's a Decision Driven by Money - But Is it Really?
The SPCA Outaouais stated in their interview with the protest organizers that they (the SPCA Outaouais) are currently operating on an annual budget of $2.6 million.  The Sampson County shelter’s budget was and is considerably less than that of the SPCA Outaouais.
Further proof that SPCA Outaouais’ decision/choice to use the gas chamber cannot be relegated to an issue of economics…here to quote from one of the protest leaders during her interview with the SPCA Outaouais’ shelter Director…
“SPCA Outaouais stated 1.6 million goes to salaries for the 50 employees and another big chunk goes for medicine. I know Royal Canine donates their food (from what I am told) to SPCA Gatineau so there is 1 million left over and a 2009 study by the American Humane Association studies the costs between the use of gas and EBI by sodium pentobarbital, and found the cost to euthanize an animal with CO gas is $4.98 an animal if using sedation. If no sedation it is $4.66 per animal. The cost for EBI was $2.29 an animal. Thus I am not completely sure why SPCA Gatineau cites this as a resource issue and staff issue when EBI would be cheaper in the long term and overall.”

Never-ever allow a gas chamber-using shelter tell you they use a gas chamber for monitory reasons.
So Why Do Shelters Still Insist on Using a Gas Chamber to Kill Dogs and Cats?
I will let you draw your own conclusions. But I will leave you with this from the interview with the Director of the SPCA Outaouais and their lawyer as reported back to us (the Protest Group) by one of the two Protest group leaders who was in attendance at the meeting…
Below is the balance of the notes from that meeting – read them carefully and then judge for yourself...

Should Gas Chambers be used to kill shelter dogs and cats? 
My answer is No, Not Ever...
What will your answer be? 
Here are the notes...

"So Rita and I had our meeting with the Gatineau SPCA on Friday May 17. It commenced at around 9am and ended around 1145am however it could have gone on longer but I had another appt. to attend. So there were pro's and con's to this meeting. The Director, a veterinarian, and another individual were there. I cannot recall who this third person was that was present but at the end of the meeting she did mention she was a lawyer. I believe she also sat on the Board of Directors from what i recall. 
The Pro's were as follows:
  • SPCA Gatineau states they also want to reach a point at which they can dismantle the gas chamber.
  • SPCA does partner with Petsmart and other locally based pet stores in their area to promote adoptions for their animals. Last year, 700 animals were placed in rescues from SPCA Gatineau.
  • SPCA did acknowledge that they receive approx. 9500 total animals yearly of which 2200 are adopted.
  • SPCA also uses lethal injection as well as T61 as other euthanization methods in addition to the chamber. All owner surrender animals are put down (if requested or deemed not adoptable) by lethal injection.
  • SPCA did acknowledge they subsist on donations and selling licence tags and have a yearly annual budget combined from these income sources of approx. $2.6 million.
  • SPCA has one almost full time vet (4 days a week for full shifts) and other rotating vets that come through.
  • SPCA acknowledges there is a large issue with animal welfare in Quebec and cited that on average an individual who gets a pet only keeps them for 19 months prior to dumping them somewhere or wanting to get rid of the animal.
  • SPCA vet did acknowledge that lethal injection is the preferred method for euthanization as did the other staff at this meeting. Due to resource and staff, lethal injection is not possible at all times.
  • Only healthy animals are placed in the gas chamber and not pregnant animals, animals under 4 months of age, old, sick or injured animals. Up to 6 cats, separated in carriers, can be placed in the chamber for one cycle. Only one dog is placed in the chamber at any one time. I am not saying these are GOOD things but it is better than shoving multiple animals of various species in together for a gassing cycle.
  • I thought the vet present was the most transparent and is trying to educate other vets on shelter medicine.

Now for the CON's:
  • Although the gas chamber is newer than their previous one, it cost $6000 (including install) and is inside the building. The gas chamber is used given resource issues however 2.6 million dollars per year seems like a lot of money. SPCA stated 1.6 million goes to salaries for the 50 employees and another big chunk goes for medicine. I know Royal Canine donates their food (from what I am told) to SPCA Gatineau so there is 1 million left over and a 2009 study by the American Humane Association studies the costs between the use of gas and EBI by sodium pentobarbital, and found the cost to euthanize an animal with CO gas is $4.98 an animal if using sedation. If no sedation it is $4.66 per animal. The cost for EBI was $2.29 an animal. Thus I am not completely sure why SPCA Gatineau cites this as a resource issue and staff issue when EBI would be cheaper in the long term and overall.
  • The vet and Director explained the gas chamber process. The gas chamber runs on each cycle being 27 minutes long. The animal (s) is placed in the chamber, usually not with sedation , and by a shelter worker who operates the chamber using a manual as a guide if needed. The CO is turned up to 6% and the worker turns the chamber on and after a minute, apparently the animal is unconscious, yet this does not mean the animal is dead. You can be unconscious obviously (i.e. while under anaesthesia during an operation and unaware of your surroundings, etc., yet still alive) Often the animal urinates or defecates as the vet stated, while in the chamber, which can happen with death. The issue I think with placing 6 cats (even if in carriers and separated) falls in line with what the ASSOCIATION OF SHELTER VETS (ASV) recently stated which is : "The ASV report elaborates, “[A]n acceptable method of euthanasia must be quick and painless, and should not cause distress. Any gas that is inhaled must reach a certain concentration in the lungs before it can be effective (AVMA 2007). The high gas flow rates necessary to achieve the recommended concentration of 6% can result in noise levels that frighten animals. Placing multiple animals in the chamber may frighten and distress the animals and dilute the effective concentration of carbon monoxide that each animal receives, creating a haphazard euthanasia experience that can be prolonged, painful and ineffective. " So, from what i deduce from this statement, it is known this 6% can cause distress to the animal and could affect the amount each cat receives of CO thus possibly rendering the time to reach the state of unconsciousness, longer.
  • As the first minute passes, SPCA told us the worker sees, through a glass window, the animal is not breathing, so assumes it is dead however this worker cannot open the gas chamber door until 26 minutes later given the CO now has to dilute. The worker leaves and comes back after 26 minutes to retrieve the body which then goes to the incinerator. The vet admitted that there was not a 100% guarantee the animal was dead given things like heart rate, corneal reflexes, etc. are not checked until after the full 27 minute cycle given the worker cannot open the door so as not to assume injury. These indicators are checked by a shelter worker and not the vet. The vet even stated to me, when I queried her, that the gas chamber will be used even if she is there, as she could be busy doing other things. It seems the vet is a top resource as the one lady (who I cannot recall who she is) kept stating they will spend resources on the living over the dead. The issue I have with this is that a study was done (it is an old study in 1983 but should still not be discarded) that showed the effects of 6% concentration carbon monoxide on dogs could not establish the precise time that loss of consciousness occurred, and dogs were observed to be vocalizing and agitated still. So it is very possible, animals are still alive after a minute, given the worker has to look from afar and also given he / she departs and does not return for 26 minutes more, we do not know what is fully occurring with the animal. The vet did acknowledge the animals do make sounds in the chamber when placed in there however no elaboration of this was given. It seemed there were alot of uncertainties in this discussion at this part. It also bothered me that this gas chamber, being used daily, could be then discerned to be used routinely. Last year AVMA issued a draft proposal that would find use of CO chambers for “routine” killing of dogs and cats is unacceptable.
  • SPCA acknowledged a shelter worker does weekly checks of the chamber to ensure the seals are in good shape, makes sure the CO concentration is OK, CO detector is operating, etc. This machine is indoors which is also something AVMA does not recommend this and specifically states "the gas source and chamber must be located in a well ventilated environment, preferable out of doors" The area the chamber is in at SPCA Gatineau is a room of many feet high however overall the room is only about 8 by 7 feet and the chamber takes up about 1/3 of that space. Now I am not sure what constitutes a "well ventilated environment" but this chamber was definitely indoors. All 3 SPCA workers cited one instance in the past year where a worker put a cat in the chamber and forgot to turn the CO on, thus leaving the cat in there and coming back 27 minutes later to find it alive. SPCA Gatineau did not cite any other instances of ever having an animal go in the chamber and come out alive at the end. However obviously this worker who forgot to turn the CO on and left the cat in the 2 feet by 2 feet chamber had not been instructed thoroughly in the chamber usage. AVMA also stated "Personnel must be instructed thoroughly in the gas's use and must understand its hazards and limitations." It is highly probable that the cat in this chamber, although not subject to CO, could have experienced some psychological distress in such a small and confined environment for those 27 minutes. I have issue with a regular shelter worker performing maintenance on the gas chamber in which AVMA has instituted such strict criteria for its use as of 2013 (and all these criteria must be operating concurrently). I suppose this is permitted however it would seem this could lead to oversights much more readily than if an actual maintenance person trained in this checked it on a regular basis. The criteria for the gas chamber to be used sets the bar so high, it is my opinion that, it cannot be used routinely, as SPCA Gatineau stated they use it (which I remind is not recommended by AVMA) and not be free of problems or oversights.
  • SPCA stated they would need fundraising and more money and resources to end the gas chamber (possibly $70,000 yearly for two more full time tech's, which is the minimum needed). Yet when I asked again if this for sure would end the gas chamber usage, the reply was "It depends..." So there seemed to be some flip flop on this and with a 1.6 million budget leftover yearly after employee salaries for 50 people, it would seem that this is not a resource issue after all. Many much poorer shelters and areas have converted from gas to lethal injection and were in the red, yet they still did it. I cite Montreal SPCA as an example.
  • Rita and I asked a worker at the front about healthy, adoptable animals being euthanized and were told it does not happen. They remain at the SPCA until adopted. Yet when Rita queried the Director about this, it was indicated healthy, adoptable animals are euthanized in the gas chamber (but also by EBI and T61 depending) unlike the sick, injured, pregnant or under age 4 months animals which cannot be put in there.
  • SPCA Gatineau indicated they were part of MAPAQ and sat on the Board. Given the recent vote to keep the gas chamber operative for another 5 years by MAPAQ (who has taken over for Anima Quebec), it appears SPCA Gatineau had a say in their gas chamber and could have voted against continued usage of it.
  • One thing that really bothered Rita and I was the few times the Director stated we could go to gas chamber and observe an animal in it and see that this was in fact, a peaceful death. Rita and I continually declined, not because we are not sure in our facts and stance on this, but because we were shocked at the lack of empathy we appeared to see in these comments. Rita stated she did not want an innocent animal to die just to prove a point which was my thought. I was very surprised that although the staff we spoke to stated they loved animals so much, they were willing to just put an animal in the gas chamber to make an example of something to us. Even if we did agree to this, watching one gassing does not mean all others are conducted right. Also, given we could not actually check any vitals, etc. after a 27 minute cycle would still leave me questioning how humane this was.
  • Lastly, as we were about to leave, the lady who i cannot recall who she is, showed me and Rita a lot of our FB postings and SPCA admitted to us they were monitoring this board. I told them that was fine; they could do such. This lady stated she was a lawyer and there were other lawyers willing to work for free with her, to possibly go up against us for ruining SPCA Gatineau's reputation and spreading false information. They cited our pictures to be not of their shelter. This is true, however I explained we are allowed our opinions and FB is a public forum. They were mad as they said the pictures did not depict their shelter actions or their gas chamber. So I stated that (since they were quite upset at the main large cover photo on the main page with the many dogs on it) that I would search for another pic of a gas chamber just like theirs with one dog in it only, and use that. I was curious that these animal loving individuals were willing to put that many resources into going after Rita and I based on us wanting them to remove their gas chamber. Anyways it was at this point, that Rita became quite upset, which was understandable and we departed.
  • There is so much more that happened but this is the meat of it really. I found it very interesting and informative. I agree with SPCA that the whole mentality of Quebec has to change in regards to animals but I believe you must start small and I think SPCA should change their mentality on gassing first. I believe SPCA Gatineau has potential to be a good and humane shelter and that they could abolish the chamber. I believe, given the large investment recently of $6000 for it, that it is new, and they do not want to give it up just yet. Also I believe their statement of "we will put more resources into the living than the dead" was very telling. Meaning the vet will not be euthanizing with lethal injection but will be doing other things as it is much easier to have a shelter worker put an animal or animals into the chamber, shut the door, turn it on, observe for a minute to see if the chest moves up or down, and walk away and return in 26 minutes”
So Canada – Stop the Silence...
Speak out, tell the shelter authorities having jurisdiction; tell your municipal, provincial and federal representatives, that the use of gas chambers to kill shelter animals IS NOT acceptable.
I find it absolutely shameful that a so called civilized society (North America - with exceptions to those areas that have banned gas chamber use) turns their collective head and allows this undeniable cruelty to continue.
How can an 'SPCA' claim their title of 'Prevention of Cruelty to Animals' when the use of a Gas Chamber is NOT and never will be a peaceful way to die.
And shame goes to the AVMA for not outright condemning the use - as they continue to prevaricate and 'pussy-foot around outright condemnation of the Gas Chamber.
Shame on Human'kind'.
I would like to see one person who advocates for the use of a Gas Chamber actually come out and truly agree that they would be happy to die in a Gas Chamber knowing that it would be a peaceful (not stressful, not painful, not terrifying, not prolonged) way to die.

Dogs have great intelligence and a full capacity to feel and express all emotions with the exception of cruelty - an emotion that is fully owned by humans and some species of primates.
There is no excuse but human hubris to explain the use of a gas chamber to kill dogs, cats, geese and any other animal.

I will go further to say that in my opinion there is something seriously lacking in a human being who can and does knowingly, willfully take a dog ,cat etc. and ‘put’ them in a gas chamber, turn on the switch for gas, walk away and allow that animal to die...

Shelter dogs and cats need people to LOOK, need people to KNOW, need people to SPEAK OUT, need people to SHARE, TWEET and STOP this travesty.

This is my Pack - many of whom would have been gassed-to-death had they been in a gas chamber using shelter...they are lucky, so many wonderful dogs are not so lucky - so please SPEAK OUT for those who cannot!

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Thursday, May 30, 2013

Have A Heart

The world extended its compassion and condemnation in yet another story out of China. A newborn discovered lodged in a sewage pipe. Still alive, urgently requiring rescue. A complicated rescue demanding delicacy, time and care in extracting the tiny boy from his impromptu cradle where he would surely have died if his birth mother had not alerted her landlord that something was horribly amiss.

This was a classic tale of a young woman not knowing where to turn in her dilemma as an unmarried mother. Made even more complex by the fact that China is a country with a child-bearing policy, but it is one that is directed at couples; it would not appear to be helpful to a young women with an age-old dilemma

She had attempted to abort the foetus, but was unable to find an agency to help her. The pregnancy was the result of an unfortunate and brief affair, and the man with whom she had shared that intimacy had no interest whatever in her problem. It was her problem and hers alone to solve, and she had no idea where to begin, how it would end, and the manner in which she could proceed.

So she did nothing. Made no one aware of her condition, unwilling obviously to inform her parents. Who likely lived in the countryside, while she had gone to the capital to find her own fortune in life. That fortune appears to have slipped her by, leaving her vulnerable and forlorn, with a basic elementary education, and an ill-paid service job.

It could happen anywhere in the world, in fact, it is such a mundane, classic situation of a young woman trapped by her biology, friendless and confused. The baby, the alarm given, was eventually extracted from the piece of pipe that was cut out of a rental-apartment's public restrooms. Public in the sense that the rental rooms do not come equipped with private toilets; residents use shared accommodation.

The young woman explained to police that she had attempted to deliver the baby herself, squatting over the toilet. Naive in the extreme, since such toilets have no seating appliances, they are simply holes in the floor with sewage pipes washing the human waste away to a main sewage disposal. The baby had become lodged in an L-joint, from which he was eventually rescued.

The baby's injuries were slight, a few bruises. He is a good weight and appears to be in good health. And he has been released from the hospital which had been given his initial care, and where he had been extracted from the portion of the pipe that rescue workers had transported to the hospital. The mother wanted to raise the child, she said, but had no idea how she would do that.

The baby is now in the custody of its maternal grandparents. It is clear enough there was no intention on the part of the young woman to flush her baby away, to abandon it to death. Squat toilets offer no support whatever; the user simply squats. Impossible single-handedly to squat and then successfully grasp the emerging baby, particularly for someone in that condition.

Evidence that she clumsily tried to prepare for the baby was found in her rented room, where police discovered baby toys. And a bloodied mess. It obviously occurred to the young woman that she might keep evidence of her delivery to a minimum, squatting over the toilet, but the baby slipped from her grasp, likely leaving her horrified, since she went directly for assistance.

It was discovered as well that she was in need of medical help, since her physical condition had been compromised through the unassisted delivery. A conjunction of circumstances. It happens.

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