Sunday, April 18, 2010

Kari Winters' Cats Are Safe!

Kari Winters was an award winning pet writer and animal welfare activist who died mysteriously. At long last, her surviving cats are finally safe. They are in a loving foster home and will be placed with people Kari would want to have them.

When Kari died, her housekeeper took her dog and four cats. This person refused to give them to Kari’s family, despite being ordered to by the probate judge. One of the cats and the dog died, and Kari’s friends were upset and confused and not sure what to do. Finally, a reporter, Joline Gutierrez Krueger, for the Albuquerque Journal, took the story and investigated it. Three columns and a follow-up have moved officials to reopen the case. If you have any information that might shed light on how Kari Winters died, please contact Detective Medrano at (505) 768-2300.

Due to pressure from Kari’s friends across the country, in Canada, and in the United Kingdom, Kari’s four surviving cats were removed from the housekeeper’s home and placed in a safe home far away. Profound thanks go to American Airlines, with special thanks to Susan Baker, Manager, in New Mexico, who took charge of the four cats and flew them to safety, the Albuquerque Animal Services Department and their magnificent team of veterinarians and a wonderful foster in New Mexico who kept and loved Kari’s cats until they could be flown out of the State to another treasured Foster. From there, they will be placed in loving homes to peacefully live out the rest of their lives. We would also like to thank the Rio Rancho Animal Shelter who kept the cats overnight until they could be turned over to Albuquerque Animal Services. Individual names, as well as their current residence, have been deliberately left out for the safety of the cats and the people who have been, and are currently involved in this tremendous act of love, caring and generosity. We are extremely grateful.

Please cross post this, post it on your blog, and let your friends know about it. We have reason to rejoice: Kari’s cats are safe. We have reason to mourn: she, one dog, and one cat are dead. We must continue to press for a full investigation of what happened to her.

The Albuquerque Journal articles can be viewed here: Part 1 Part 2 part 3 Part 4

Saturday, March 6, 2010

More on Kari Winters

Those of you who are regular readers will remember the untimely death of my friend, Kari Winters. You will recall that she was an amazing woman who rescued, rehabilitated and rehomed countless cats and dogs.

This past November she was honored, posthumously, by the Winn Feline Foundation with the Media Award, presented to the member of the press whose work has made a positive impact on cats and their health. It is a singular honor. Accepting the award for her from Dr. Susan Little was a bittersweet moment. It was so well-deserved but Kari should have been there to accept her own award.

There was more to her death than met the eye and so, with the help of our friend and colleague, Nancy Marano who publishes Petroglyphs in New Mexico, and Kari's oldest and best friend as well as business manager, Gary Rohde of Southern California, I was able to bring the story to a wonderful reporter, Joline Gutierrez Krueger at the Albuquerque Journal, the story has, in part, begun to emerge. It will appear in three parts. It is our hope that there will finally be justice for Kari.

Here is part one:
You can scroll down the page and sign is as a guest. Part Two will run this Monday. There will be a third part later in the week.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Where, Oh, Where Did Those Little Dogs Come From?

It's hard to believe but a new report indicates that scientists have pinpointed the origins of small dogs. The scientists believe that little dogs can trace their roots to the Middle East 12000 years ago!

Toy and small dogs are my particular interest even though I love all dogs (and cats, etc.) but I had believed conventional wisdom which indicated that most small dogs were bred down from large dogs. The irony in this that while Miniature Pinschers look like tiny Doberman Pinschers, the Miniature Pinscher is the older of the two breeds.

A new article in BMC Biology indicates that one gene is responsible for the size of dogs. Now, where I take exception to this is where the report indicates that they probably go back to the Middle Eastern grey wolf, which was smaller than other wolves, that those wolves were domesticated. However, dogs aren't wolves and wolves aren't dogs so that part of the equation would seem to be off.

It's a version of the gene 1GF1 that they believe determines the small size of dogs. Indeed, dogs did start out larger. Belgiam, Russia and and Germany would seem to be where the large dogs originated. It was thousands of years later that the smaller dogs appeared in the Middle East.

Confused yet? I'll be thinking about this for awhile...

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Have You Heard About The Toby Project?

Well, have you? Heard about The Toby Project? If not, perhaps you should. It's not unique but it is noteworthy. Founder Andrew J. Kaplan, D.V.M. is the person who is behind The Toby Project but it is a combined effort of people, including their advisory board.

The Toby Project is a mobile spay/neuter in New York City that is available in all of New York City's Five Boroughs. Not every dog needs to be intact. Only those owned by responsible breeders who show their cats or dogs, do proper health checks to rule out genetic diseases and show their cats and dogs to get objective opinions on whether or not they meet the standard for their breed should be intact. Those cats and dogs should also have the proper temperament before they are chosen for breeding.

Spaying before the first heat will eliminate mammary cancer; neutering prevents testicular cancer. There are other benefits to having a spayed or neutered pets including the lessening of roaming, a cleaner house since males won't mark indoors and females won't go through the messiness of heat and you won't have male dogs from miles away parked in front of your home, whining and carrying on.

The TobyProject offers free or low-cost spaying and neutering as well as rabies vaccinations. Free would be for Pitbulls as well as mixed breed cats and dogs. However, it's important to note that the fee for purebred dogs and pedigreed cats is more than reasonable, as is the fee for a Rabies vaccination.

Bringing the clinics to the owners means that there's really no excuse for not having a pet spayed or neutered, nor is there any excuse for not giving a pet the Rabies vaccination that is mandatory in every State. The Toby Project has expanded to include a feral cat spay/neuter program which will allow feral colonies to live out their lives in relative peace without creating more feral cats.

It costs $230,000. per year to operate a fully-equipped spay/neuter van. The Toby Project depends upon donations from caring individuals. No gift is too small because when put with other small donations, they can really add up.

For more information, including how you can help, visit

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Trap, Neuter, Return at Risk in California

It's almost hard to believe that California is embroiled in a fight over Trap, Neuter, Release (TNR), the program in which volunteers trap feral and unowned cats, bring them to a free or low-cost spay/neuter clinic (often a mobile one), and then return them to their colony or clowder. The cats and kittens are marked by having a notch cut into one ear at the same time so the same cats aren't trapped again. This allows them to live out their lives in peace and not reproduce. It's simple, it works, and it's spearheaded by dedicated volunteers around the country. One good place to go for information is Alley Cat Allies (

In California the complaints are coming from bird lovers who claim that too many birds are being killed by cats and TNR isn't working since more whole cats are dumped. People complain about cats being dirty, soiling on their lawns, etc.

Looking at this issue objectively, killing healthy cats isn't a solution. Killing birds isn't a solution. TNR works. There's no question about that. In my opinion, no one is looking at the real issue here: education. As fast as the volunteers can trap, neuter and return cats, that is practically as fast as irresponsible people are dumping unaltered cats in those same areas. Unaltered cats reproduce. That is the point. We need education in the homes, schools and communities. We need to stop the dumping of unwanted cats and kittens. We need to make them understand that dumping them in shelters will likely result in euthanasia although it might result in adoption. They need to take responsibility and have their pets spayed or neutered.

Only responsible, ethical breeders should be breeding animals and have done the health checks with proof of same, have shown them to have objective opinions about whether or not they're good specimens of their breed and should be bred. Responsible breeders screen potential homes and have a waiting list for owners. Responsible breeders don't place animals before at least 3 months of age, all the while socializing them properly.

How do we stop people from dumping unwanted cats and kittens, beyond educating them? In this time of economic downturn, perhaps hitting them in the wallet would make them think. If you see someone dumping cats or kittens, write down their license plate and report them. Have a fine put in place for those who dump unwanted animals of any species. Make the fine high enough to matter. Teach owners that they need to keep their cats indoors with proper environmental enrichment. There are bells on cat collars so the birds are warned but even better is providing a good home where the cats get proper attention, where they are safe from cars and other animals, where they can live longer and stay healthier.

For a look at one volunteer's experiences, I highly recommend the book, They Had Me At Meow by Rosie Sorenson, MFA MFT (

Do what you can to help educate. Be pro-active. Don't just sit there bemoaning the fact that this is happening. Help change it before this attitude against cats spreads across the country. Educate, Educate, Educate! Find ways to make this work and keep both cats and birds safe.