DEAR DR. FOX: Everywhere I look, I see rabbits as impulse purchases or adoptions, quickly discarded outside or imprisoned in a wooden box and left to languish in a garage or backyard until they die of loneliness and lack of care. If I put a dog or cat outside to live its life in a small cage, I could and should be cited for animal cruelty.
In my community in the metro D.C. area, we have a domestic bunny who was abandoned after Easter 2009 when the family moved away. Amazingly, he is still alive; yet the residents of the homes he frequents will neither bring him inside and provide vet care, nor allow anyone on their property to trap him because they want him "to have his freedom." (We have a community email list where this has been discussed.)
How well-intentioned, animal-loving people can think that domestic rabbits can survive outside 24/7 without medical care, nutritious food or integration into the social fabric of their lives and homes baffles me. It's beyond my ability to comprehend that the general public thinks that confining a house rabbit in a "hutch" somewhere is OK.
House rabbits are not wild rabbits or chipmunks or squirrels who can live outside in all kinds of weather. They also are not hamsters or gerbils who can and should live their lives in a cage.
Please help educate the American public about house rabbits so people will understand that they are not a novelty or wild animal, but a companion animal, deserving of the same love and care as our cats and dogs. -- D.A., Falls Church, Virginia
DEAR D.A.: Thanks for this important reminder. Too many rabbits are treated like disposable toys or commodities, and many are kept inhumanely, condemned to a solitary life in a small cage. They are wonderful, intelligent and sociable creatures whose essential needs and rights need to be more widely respected and upheld.
BIRD PROTECTION SOCIETIES OPPOSE CAT TNR, BUT ONE ENDORSES FERAL PARROT RESCUE, REHABILITATION & RELEASE
I was dismayed seeing the summer cover story of Audubon Society magazine about the rescue, rehabilitation and release of feral parrots in Southern California, under municipal permit! How can the National Audubon Society endorse such practices while another bird protection society, the American Bird Conservancy, vehemently opposes cat trap-neuter-release for many of the reasons that I share? Namely, all released, non-native species have ecological, environmental and potential public health consequences. Parrot disease (Psittacosis) is one that can be deadly for humans.
Clearly some bird lovers and rescuers are like some cat lovers and rescuers, evidently blind to the well-being of other species and in need of wider vision and ethical consistency in their passions and actions. Having been with parrots in their jungle habitat in South India, I, too, am enthralled by their spirit of being, their joyful chatter, their beauty and intelligence.
Let's all strive to help save parrots and other "exotic" nonindigenous wild species in the places where they belong. I discourage people from purchasing "exotic" animals as pets so that the international trade in wildlife can come to an end. The American government should prohibit the importation of wild species for the pet industry, and commercial breeding in captivity in the U.S. should be similarly prohibited. The deliberate and accidental release of nonindigenous plants, which can have serious wildlife habitat and agricultural consequences, is a related issue too long overlooked.
BOOK REVIEW: "UNSPOKEN MESSAGES" BY RICHARD D. ROWLAND
Animals often play an unrecognized and unappreciated role in our growth and transformation into more humane being, making us more compassionate and empathic and less self-involved and unaware. U.S. Army Vietnam veteran and retired Kentucky state police officer Richard D. Rowland has written a memoir of his transformative experiences with horses, dogs and other animals. He describes his metaphysical explorations and his confrontation of the challenge of healing himself from a highly invasive cancer.
He makes it clear how conventional Western medicine nearly killed him with treatments while declaring he had a fatal disease, and how his enjoyment of and enjoinment with other animals helped him deal with such a devastating diagnosis. I was riveted by the first chapter describing how stabled horses at his facility reacted at exactly the same time when the veterinarian euthanized a beloved mare, sight unseen from most of the other horses.
The five people witnessing this were amazed that the horses all knew. This is affirmation of what I call the empathosphere, which I first documented in my book "The Boundless Circle: Caring for Creatures and Creation." Rowland describes this event as "Something spiritual, something older than time, some transfer of wisdom or spirit took place through the communication that we witnessed."
Rowland's memoir, "Unspoken Messages: Spiritual Lessons I Leaned From Horses and Other Earthbound Souls," will be an enjoyable and encouraging, if not inspiring, read for all who have been close to another being other than human.
(Send all mail to email@example.com or to Dr. Michael Fox in care of Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106. The volume of mail received prohibits personal replies, but questions and comments of general interest will be discussed in future columns.
Visit Dr. Fox's website at DrFoxVet.net.)