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They Are All Oreo: How Oreo's Law Will Save Shelter Animals--And Help Stop Animal Abuse
March 11, 2010

Thin Valentine is looking for a home. Her and her friends need you to support and promote Oreo's Law.

Julio after returning from his neuter surgery. He went from possible hypothermia victim to possible kill statistic to a great home in about a week. Julio and his feline fellows need you to contact your NYS Assembly member and State Senator to support Oreo's Law.

Willie, AKA Joshua, was pulled from NYC Animal Care & Control\'s Kill List by Empty Cages Collective. At the time, he had a bad cold and needed surgery on his injured eye. He is now in a wonderful home. Many cats and kittens like Willie will have a chance at a life if Oreo's Law passes.

Oreo before being killed. Labor Organizer Mother Jones said it best: Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living.
It was only a month ago: February 2010. Bed Stuy, Brooklyn. The dog--a white pit bull with a black patch around her left eye--had been whining and barking and crying for days. Hungry, confused, hungry, tired, hungry. She would sit on the third-floor fire escape whining and then jump back into the open window of the abandoned house. She repeated this routine for hours, day after day, for at least a week.

A single question resonated repeatedly from the inside of her being: Why? Why was she left here? Why was there no food? Why was everything so scary? Why wouldn't anyone come to help her? WHY?

No one seemed to hear her cries. Finally, the continuous distressed barking and whining found the compassionate ear of a woman who lived in the building next door. The woman, Sam, started making phone calls searching for help for the dog, climbed down her own fire escape to throw food to the starving prisoner of the abandoned house, and worried about the dog's future. Eventually she called Empty Cages Collective (ECC) and Brooklyn Animal Foster Network (BAFN), as well as other organizations. BAFN volunteers rushed into action to access the abandoned building, gaining entry to the vacant apartment via the fire escape. BAFN rescued the dog and ferried her to safety and care in the form of food, veterinary treatment and temporary boarding. Then the work to find the dog (now named Valentine) a good, loving, permanent home began.

When an animal rescuer asked Sam why she didn't call for help sooner, she said she had tried but kept coming up with dead ends. Sam had been truly struggling with what to do for the young dog before BAFN intervened. Her quandary is one shared by many people concerned with stray, abused and homeless animals throughout the state of New York (and in fact, the nation). Sam didn't want to see the starving, abandoned dog "rescued" only to end up killed in a shelter that adheres to antiquated and unethical policies or attitudes that dictate killing for space, (treatable) health conditions and "behavioral problems" determined through archaic temperament testing. Sam had heard that many pit and pit bull mixes end up being killed at NYC Animal Care & Control, which they do. Even the ASPCA--an organization that, in recent years, stopped killing most healthy and treatable animals in its shelter--was known to kill pits rescued from abusive situations (e.g., Max, Oreo). Sam didn't want to send Valentine--already a victim of human cruelty and callousness--to be further victimized by being unnecessarily killed. No thinking, compassionate person could blame her.

Early the next morning, an Empty Cages Collective volunteer was shaken awake by the vibrating ringing of his cell phone. Barbara, the caller, was someone whose feral cat colony in Canarsie, Brooklyn, ECC had helped trap, sterilize and return. She was calling because someone had abandoned a small brown tabby kitten on her porch the night before, leaving nothing more than a box of food. The kitten was confused, terrified, and freezing! There was already several inches of snow on the ground, and more snow was coming. When ECC realized that the kitten had been left outside overnight and was found shaking uncontrollably at daybreak, we knew we had to help. ECC immediately agreed to accept the kitten (now known as Julio) into our adoption program. When asked why she didn't rescue the cat sooner, Barbara's reply was similar to Sam's. Barbara didn't want to take Julio to Brooklyn's Animal Care & Control, where he could be unnecessarily killed instead of being merely frightened and cold. "What would be the point of rescuing him just to turn him over to a place that would kill him?" Barbara asked. (Luckily for Julio, it only took about a week post-rescue for ECC to find him a terrific home!)

Much like Valentine the dog, Julio the kitten awaited rescue, suffering simply because the institutions in place to care for companion animals in crisis utilize killing as a method of problem-solving--a method that many members of the general public will not accept. The point is simple and yet profound: the public leaves animals in egregiously cruel, neglectful or unacceptable situations rather than bring those animals to shelters who kill healthy or treatable animals and show no active intention to stop. Animals stay in abusive situations because the institutions that are designed to help and protect them kill them instead. This ethical inconsistency has forced the public to remain hands off, refraining from reporting cruelty and neglect situations lest they aid and abet the killing of adoptable animals.

Oreo's Law (A. 9449/S. 6412), is New York State legislation proposed by Assemblyman Micah Kellner and State Senator Thomas Duane that has the potential to save the lives of countless puppies and kittens, dogs and cats, rabbits, guinea pigs and other companion animals who find themselves in animal control facilities in NY State. Oreo's Law (A. 9449/S. 6412), if passed, will make it illegal for an animal shelter, animal control establishment or pound to kill a healthy or treatable animal if a 501(c)3 non-profit animal rescue and adoption organization in good standing is willing to accept that animal into their rescue and adoption program. By legislating that no-kill shelters and rescue organizations have access to adoptable and medically treatable animals who are to be killed in shelters, the state of New York will send a clear, necessary message that killing healthy and treatable shelter animals is inhumane and should be avoided whenever viable alternatives exist. But that's not the whole story. Oreo's Law will have wonderful, broad-reaching consequences. In passing Oreo's Law, the state of New York will take the first step towards creating an environment where animals are not left in abusive and neglectful situations simply because their would be rescuers live in fear of making bad situations worse. Oreo's Law will represent a milestone in protecting animals in shelters. Furthermore, Oreo's Law, if passed, will enable, inspire and strengthen partnerships in the name of saving the lives of companion animals.

Throughout the state of New York, animals remain in less than ideal situations--sometimes abusive, often neglectful--simply because the traditional animal control model has created a false dichotomy of defeat: death or abuse. The apologists for these traditional shelters and animal control establishments tell us they are doing the best they can, that killing is currently necessary, and that animals who are leading imperfect lives in imperfect homes are better off dead. Yet conscience, intelligence and compassion show us the truth: No healthy or adoptable animal is "protected" through killing.

By reinforcing a schizophrenic paradigm where killing poses as love, the animal control establishment force the public to compromise the welfare of animals by asking them to do something they won't do: participate in a system that pulls animals from abusers only to unjustly end their lives--lives these animals value and struggle to keep intact. When killing is no longer treated as the go-to move for the countless animals entering traditional shelter establishments, existing humane alternatives will be utilized, perfected and expanded, while others will be discovered or created.

While justifications for killing abound, the truth is that shelters all over New York State kill animals who reputable and responsible animal rescue organizations are or would be willing to take, rehabilitate and place in loving homes. Animals are being killed in New York City, Rochester, Buffalo and cities and towns throughout the state because animal control establishments are not working with rescuers at all or will not work with them to the extent they could. Even in New York City, where NYC shelters do a better job working with rescue organizations than almost anywhere else in the state, animals are still killed while hardworking and knowledgeable individuals who run 501(c)3 non-profit animal rescues are denied the ability to pull animals destined to die.

Without Oreo's Law, there is no recourse for the animals and their rescuers when a pound, shelter or animal control establishment is determined to kill an animal for reasons other then irreparable suffering. Without Oreo's Law, healthy and treatable companion animals have no hope to live and find a loving home if the shelter they find themselves in has policies or staff determined to kill first and ask questions later. Just some of the individual animals who fall victim to unnecessary shelter killing are cats too terrified to show their true friendly selves, orphaned kittens and puppies young enough to need round-the-clock bottle-feeding, pit bulls in communities whose shelters have antiquated must-kill mandates on bully breed dogs, cats with slight colds and dogs with nothing more than a runny nose.

Right now as you read this, dogs and cats and other animals are marked to be "PTS" ("put to sleep") tomorrow morning or "EHR"'d ("euthanasia for humane reasons") tomorrow night at animal control establishments throughout New York State. Right now as you read this, 501(c)3 non-profit animal rescue and adoption organizations are willing to save many of those animals, incur the costs to provide food and veterinary care, and work hard to find those animals wonderful, loving homes--but will not be permitted to "pull" the animals from the establishments that will kill them. Those animals will be killed, just as Oreo was unnecessarily killed. Oreo's Law will save many of these lives and help to ensure that dogs like Valentine and kittens like Julio don't wait longer than absolutely necessary for help to arrive.

Oreo's Law will not bring back Oreo--the abused, but resilient dog who was killed when viable alternatives existed--but it will ensure that future "Oreos" (including tiny kittens, friendly cats, scared and hungry dogs, and even rabbits and hamsters) are given a fair shot at a good life. Oreo's Law is commonsense legislation that people who care about animals should vocally support for the thousands of animals who pass through shelters and rescue organizations--animals like Oreo, Max, Valentine, and Julio.

Opossums & Skunks Need Advocates, Too
January 24, 2010

Skunks aren't vermin - they're just neighbors.

Opossums are North America\'s only marsupial - and are entitled to be treated like thinking, feeling beings not "pests"
On Wednesday, January 20th, the Daily News reported that the human residents of a public housing complex in the Bronx are "terrified" to leave their homes after dark because of the recent activity of wild skunks and opossums in their neighborhood. For those of us who have worked with and advocate for skunks and opossums, this would be funny if we didn't know what this unfounded fear generally results in: killing and cruelty towards urban wildlife. Empty Cages Collective's wildlife rehabilitator fired off a letter to the editor in response to the Daily News article: "Skunks and opossums are native New York City residents who deserve our respect and compassion, not fear and hostility ("Residents of Throggs Neck Houses fear possums, skunks, but officials say little can be done," Kerry Burke, 1/20/2010). Skunks and opossums are wild sentient beings who play an invaluable role in our urban ecology. They eat mice, rats, and insects, and provide food for other wild animals like hawks and owls. We owe these wild animals admiration for their resilience in surviving in an increasingly hostile human-centered world.

By refraining from leaving cat or dog food or accessible human trash outside at night and using repellents (kitty litter can be placed near or inside of a skunk den site to encourage her to move on, or commercial or homemade capsaicin or castor oil repellents may also be used) and exercising simple tolerance, humans and urban wildlife can coexist in peace.

Relocation or trapping and killing urban wildlife is an ineffective and cruel response to unfounded fears about these creatures. As journalist Dorothy Thompson once wrote, "The most destructive element in the human mind is fear. Fear creates aggressiveness." Throggs Neck residents should let go of some of their fears and be open to the idea that their four-footed neighbors have a place in the nabe."

We can only hope that the residents of Throggs Neck learn to appreciate the wildlife around them. Thankfully, resouces like and the excellent book Wild Neighbors make it easier for people to resolve conflicts with wildlife humanely, as well as appreciate the role wildlife play in their native ecosystems!

Another Brooklyn Group Supports Oreo's Law--Now, It's Your Turn!
January 5, 2010

Basketball was pulled from the kill list at Animal Care & Control by Empty Cages. Should she have died if a shelter director decided he or she didn't want to work with ECC? Oreo's Law would provided needed protection for cats like Basketball.
Oreo's Law aims to save lives in New York State--and if it passes, it will. Oreo's Law--once passed--would make it illegal for an animal shelter or an animal control facility to kill a healthy or medically or behaviorally treatable animal if another legitimate non-profit animal rescue organization is willing to take the animal. Some establishments have policies to kill cats because they are feral; others kill kittens because they have colds or are still nursing and not completely weaned. Currently, there is no recourse for animal rescue organizations to protect animals from being unnecessarily killed if another animal sheltering establishment is determined to do so.

Laurie Bleier, director of the Brooklyn Animal Foster Network, an animal rescue organization, recently wrote: "My name is Laurie Bleier and I am the director of the Brooklyn Animal Foster Network. My group is one of many groups which were banned from removing animals from the Animal Care & Control of New York City (NYCACC) by past executive director Charlene Pedrolie.

In the two years before our suspension, we removed more than 1,000 animals from NYCACC as New Hope Partners, through our Care-A-Van adoption events with State Senator Erik Addams. Every weekend, Spring, Summer and Fall, you could see us on Seventh Avenue in Park Slope with 15 or more animals we just picked up from the Brooklyn Center on Linden Blvd. Many from the euthanasia list.

Shortly after Ms. Pedrolie began her tenure, she informed me unceremoniously that my group was banned because one of my dogs in foster care was found to be emaciated. After a thorough investigation by the ASPCA Humane Law Enforcement those charges were found to be completely baseless and the case was dropped. You can call Officer Joe Pentangelo at (212) 876-7700, ext. 4450 for confirmation of this.

Despite our complete exoneration, Ms. Pedrolie refused to give us back our New Hope status. In the 2 and 1/2 years that we have not had due process to regain our status we estimate more than 1,000 cats and dogs needlessly perished because one person could not admit she made a mistake. No one should have that kind of power over helpless animals.

Additionally, there was no response to countless letters of protest written to the board members of Animal Care & Control of New York City by hundreds of outraged New York animal loving citizens who knew our work.

And now, to our utter disbelief, the new Interim Director recently told me that Ms. Charlene Pedrolie's countless, capricious suspensions are not a priority for her. Seems a few more hundred animals will die under her temporary tenure.

Please feel free to use my story as a powerful reason to enact immediately Oreo's Law."

Please contact Assembly Member Micah Z. Kellner and State Senator Thomas K. Duane and thank them for their work to protect shelter animals! Their contact information is available on their websites.

If you're a New York State resident, PLEASE write, call AND email your Assembly Member and State Senator and ask them to support (and ideally co-sponsor) Assemblyman Micah Kellner and State Senator Thomas Duane's "Oreo's Law": a law that will protect countless companion animals from being unnecessarily destroyed when alternatives exist. You can find your New York State representatives here. You also get this information by calling the League of Women Voters of the City of New York's Telephone Information Service at 212-725-3541.

Please keep Empty Cages Collective in the loop about responses you get!

IMPORTANT! Help Pass "Oreo's Law"
December 4, 2009

Young, alert and full of life: Oreo before her execution

"Pray for the dead and fight like hell for the living."- Mother Jones, Labor Organizer
In June 2009, a one year old dog named Oreo was thrown from the sixth floor of a Brooklyn rooftop. The perpetrator was arrested and Oreo - with broken bones and fractured ribs - was "rescued" and taken to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). The ASPCA started treating her broken body and she began to recover. She was quickly deemed the "miracle dog," and a happy ending seemed possible. As Nathan Winograd, animal sheltering expert and advocate points out: the miracle was short-lived.

According to the ASPCA, Oreo - a dog traumatized and abused by humans - was showing some aggression towards the same species that had thrown her off of a roof and nearly killed her. While Oreo's body had healed, she was still (unsurprisingly) distrustful and stressed by some people. Ed Sayres, President of the ASPCA made the decision to kill her due to this alleged behavior. Before she was killed, Pets Alive, a no-kill animal shelter located in the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, contacted the ASPCA to ask for custody of Oreo. Pets Alive is a reputable, approved animal rescue organization with experience in handling dogs deemed aggressive. Pets Alive contacted the ASPCA repeatedly requesting custody of Oreo. The ASPCA refused. The ASPCA then killed Oreo.

Oreo, abused and possibly beaten before entering the ASPCA, thrown from a roof and injured, was "rescued" only to be killed far before her time, without being given a chance at rehabilitation - even when a responsible organization was willing to work with her and foot the bill.

This has led Assembly Member Micah Z. Kellner and Senator Thomas K. Duane to introduce "Oreo's Law". "Oreo's Law" will grant legitimate animal protection and welfare organizations the right to request healthy and treatable animals be given to their care when a shelter is planning on killing them. A similar law already exists in California, and has saved countless animals from unnecessary and untimely death at the hands of animal control and sheltering establishments.

Please help make sure that Oreo is the last companion animal in New York State who is killed when a responsible animal rescue alternative exists!

Please contact Assembly Member Micah Z. Kellner and State Senator Thomas K. Duane and thank them for their work to protect shelter animals! Their contact information is available on their websites.

If you're a New York State resident, PLEASE write, call AND email your Assembly Member and State Senator and ask them to support (and ideally co-sponsor) Assemblyman Micah Kellner and State Senator Tomas Duane's "Oreo's Law": a law that will protect countless companion animals from being unnecessarily destroyed when alternatives exist. You can find your New York State representatives here.

Please keep Empty Cages Collective in the loop about responses you get!

Help Stop Dunkin' Donuts Abuse of Heifers & Hens
August 2, 2009

Dunkin' Donuts is the world's largest coffee and baked goods chain serving more than 3 million customers daily. There are an estimated 6,400 stores in the U.S. alone, offering more than 52 varieties of donuts--and every single donut served contains both egg and dairy products from animals forced to endure miserable conditions on today's massive and mechanized factory farms.

The Empty Cages Collective is proud to support Compassion Over Killing's campaign to ask Dunkin' Donuts to stop using eggs and dairy in its donuts as well as offer vegan menu items.

Please share your concerns, letting the company know you want it to stop using eggs and dairy in its donuts and offer vegan menu items to meet the growing demand for healthier and more humane foods:

Email Dunkin Donuts now!
Call the Company: 800-859-5339
Send a Letter to the CEO:
Dunkin Brands
Attn: Nigel Travis
130 Royall Street
Canton, MA 02021

The Underground Railroad for Roosters
May 7, 2009

Rescued ECC roosters
View the slideshow here, and take action here.

New York State Beavers Suffer Three Weeks Longer. Help Stop It.
March 13, 2009

Beavers are intelligent beings worthy of compassionate and just treatment
The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has announced plans to extend the beaver trapping season in parts of New York State. Traps set for beavers are inherently barbaric and inhumane. In the case of underwater traps set for beavers, it takes over ten minutes for the beaver to die of lack of oxygen. Footage of the inherent cruelties of lethal traps set for beavers can be seen here.

Beavers are highly intelligent and gentle animals who form close and cooperative family relationships. Beaver pairs are strictly monogamous, mating for life, while also being excellent parents whose young stay with them for at least the first year of their lives. Furthermore, beavers play an important role in the ecosystem and are considered a "keystone species," as the ponds and wetlands formed by beaver dams increase biodiversity and improve overall environmental quality. After having been pushed to near extinction by fur trappers in the mid-1800s, their numbers have gradually increased and stabilized over the 20th century - yet their numbers are no where near what they were when European settlers arrived to this continent. Due to this history, the Empty Cages Collective recognizes it is imperative that beavers - and the biologically diverse ponds they create - be treated with tolerance and respect.

As our friends at Beavers: Wetlands & Wildlife point out:

It makes no sense to weaken our state's natural flood control as we endure more floods and droughts from global warming. Each NY beaver family builds dams that maintain about 15 acres of vital wetlands, and, according to US EPA, a one-acre wetland typically stores one million gallons. Dams slow the flow of streams so there is less damage downstream.

Beavers rarely overpopulate as each family defends a large streamside territory. When local beaver flooding of roads occurs, studies show that installing beaver "flow devices" saves taxpayers a lot of money, while saving crucial wetlands. Traps set for beavers routinely kill pet dogs in public places--at times while their owners watch on.

Please contact the NY DEC and ask for them to rescind the trapping extension by writing:

Chris Amato, Assistant Commissioner, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4500.

Fighting For "Fighting" Roosters
March 5, 2009

Pablo makes friends with one of ECC's volunteer photographers

"Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." - Martin Luther King, Jr.

"Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve its life than destroy it." - Henry David Thoreau
On January 25, 2009, 43 roosters were seized in the Bronx when authorities busted an illegal cockfight. Cockfighting is a gruesome and abhorrent blood sport that results in immense animal suffering and violent deaths for untold numbers of birds every year. For the battered roosters who were confiscated on that January evening, and those people who truly cared about their plight, one could be heartened by the belief that help had finally arrived! Yet within an hour of entering NY Animal Care & Control (NYC ACC), all of the roosters had been killed.

In the media about the rooster confiscation and subsequent killing, Richard Gentles, spokesman for Animal Care & Control said that the roosters could not be rehabilitated and that there is "no placement for them."

Of course, not everyone agrees that "rehabilitation" is impossible or placement completely non-existent. People who rescue and provide sanctuary for domesticated fowl have found truth contrary to Mr. Gentles' words. Eastern Shore Chicken Sanctuary and other rescue and sanctuary organizations have accepted fighting roosters and find they can be taught to live with other birds peacefully again. A death sentence is often unwarranted. The Wall Street Journal, the Pittsburgh Post Gazette, and other publications have all written about their fighting rooster rehabilitation successes.

Empty Cages Collective began publicly questioning the compassion and alleged commitment to a No Kill future in New York City in relation to the decision to kill the fighting roosters without even an attempt to find temporary holding space, placement or transportation to sanctuaries for at least some of the blood sport victims. Such questioning and gentle prodding paid off.

On February 13, when Animal Care & Control received roosters seized from an NYPD raid, Animal Care & Control reached for the phone instead of the usual syringes filled with sodium pentobarbital. While advocates only had 24 hours to get the roosters out of the shelter, all of the birds from this confiscation (19 in total) were pulled from NYC ACC for foster and eventual placement in appropriate sanctuary situations where the birds could live out the rest of their lives in peace, free from human-inflicted abuse, needless suffering and premature death. Empty Cages Collective had the privilege of rescuing, fostering and eventually transporting four of the beautiful birds (Mercury, Nat, Phoenix and Pablo) to their new homes. We weren't surprised to find they were sensitive, intelligent individuals with distinct personalities. We were surprised to find, however, that they weren't aggressive in any way towards humans - even initially.

As Nathan Winograd, director of the No Kill Advocacy Center and author of the very important book, Redemption: The Myth of Companion Animal Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America has written: "So how does a traditional shelter make a community no-kill? We did it with a simple yet highly effective three-step process 1) Stop the killing; 2) Stop the killing; 3) Stop the killing. I am not joking. No-Kill starts as an act of will."

We concur. It is apparent to us that when there is a true commitment to take animals interests' seriously and the ethical obligation to alleviate suffering and preserve life simultaneously is recognized, solutions are discovered and created. New paradigms rooted in justice, compassion and respect for other animals' lives replace antiquated ones that justify, enable and promote cruelty and killing as viable solutions.

For the sake of roosters abused and exploited in fighting rings throughout the U.S., we hope that new, truly humane paradigms replace old ones, where solutions to reduce the number of birds being fought illegally in blood sport are created and gain momentum. Furthermore, we envision the victims of animal fighting are rewarded with protection and safe spaces when they are rescued, not mandatory death sentences.

Phoenix, Nat, Mercury, and Pablo are our most recent reminders of the serious need for us to do our part to get to such a place.

Prospect Heights Garden Cats May Become Victims of Intolerance
January 12, 2009

A cat trapped and sterilized by Empty Cages Collective awaits return to her colony
In response to New York Daily News' article Battle in the Garden from Saturday, January 10th about two sterilized feral cats, Clarence & Betty who are at risk of injury or death because of intolerant attitudes towards feral and stray cats in Prospect Heights, Brooklyn ECC fired off a letter to the Daily News to display our dismay that intolerance is trumping compassion towards our feral feline neighbors.  Our letter reads:

The controversy surrounding two feral cats eking out a life in a community garden in Brooklyn and their kind caretaker ("Battle in the garden," 1/10/2009) is a sad commentary about human intolerance and indifference to homeless cats.  The Prospect Heights Community Garden gardeners should be ashamed of themselves for trying to evict two feral cats in the dead of winter.

Clarence and Betty, have been vaccinated, spayed and neutered so they can no longer reproduce, and are fed regularly by a generous person.  These cats were born on the street and are unsocialized to humans, and are not candidates for adoption. They have nowhere good to go.

Forcibly removing the cats will not only end with feline suffering, injury or premature death, but will not solve the community garden's alleged problem with their presence.  Prospect Heights, like most areas in Brooklyn, has a large stray cat population.  It is very likely that new stray cats - ones who aren't sterilized, will fill the void left by Clarence and Betty's absence.  Traditional solutions such as extermination or "relocation" have proven themselves to be ineffective. The compassionate, rational method practiced by the caretaker has proven its effectiveness time and again in more ways then assuaging the irritations of intolerant people.

The people of the community garden would do well to learn compassion and tolerance for others by finding ways to co-exist with cats. That's a solution we could all live with - especially Clarence and Betty.

For Clarence & Betty, and the other cats who will inevitably move into the garden if Clarence and Betty are removed, we can only hope that the Prospect Heights Community Garden's gardeners change their tune about what we - the species who caused the companion animal overpopulation crisis - owe feral cats.

Help Make Our Communities Safer - For Everyone
December 13, 2008

The Empty Cages Collective aims to help cultivate a culture where animals are recognized as fellow sentient beings worthy of respectful and compassionate treatment. We at ECC know all too well how the lack of ethical consideration and compassion for animals translates into cruelty, injustice and unnecessary killing. Animals possess many of the same feelings and abilities that humans do -- not the least of which is the capacity to experience pain and pleasure, as well as a desire to have their lives left intact without suffering. Nevertheless, we at ECC are confronted daily with the fact that animals remain the ultimate "other". This perception of "otherness" allows humans to demean and devalue the inherent worth and intrinsic value of our fellow animals. We justify their wholesale exploitation and abuse in the name of religious ideas, tradition, and cultural bigotry.

We say our "fellow animals" because it is a biological fact that human beings are indeed animals, though it may offend some of us or make us uncomfortable to consider ourselves as such. A culture that allows the marginalization, oppression, and exploitation of certain groups of human beings is one that will inevitably be violent and unsafe for many other animals. A culture that cannot protect the safety and dignity of its most vulnerable human members will not be able to protect its wild and companion animals. If our society cannot value the inherent worth of our fellow human beings, what hope do cats, dogs, pigeons, chickens, cows, chimpanzees, dolphins and other animals have of being treated respectfully and compassionately?
This is why the Empty Cages Collective encourages you to join our friends at the New York City Anti-Violence Project for a march, vigil and press conference for Jose Osvaldo Sucuzhanay. Mr. Sucuzhanay, a resident of the Bushwick neighborhood of Brooklyn, was brutally beaten while walking with his brother, Romel Sucuzhanay. The attack against Mr. Sucuzhanay occurred at 3:30 am on Sunday, November 30th at the intersection of Bushwick Avenue and Kossuth Place in Bushwick. The two brothers were headed home after an evening spent at a church party at St. Brigid's Roman Catholic Church and later La Vega, a local bar. The brothers were walking home with their arms linked, leaning close together. Just steps from their home, Jose and RomelSucuzhanay with a bottle and a baseball bat. Mr. Sucuzhanay, who is on life support at Elmhurst Avenue and Kossuth Place in were attacked. Their attackers, described as four black men driving a maroon or orange-red Honda SUV, jumped out of their car yelling anti-gay and anti-Hispanic epithets and proceeded to beat Jose Osvaldo hospital, is a well respected business owner and father of two.

Please show your support for Mr. Sucuzhanay, his family, and safer and just communities.

When: Sunday, December 14, 2008 at 2 PM
Where: Make The Road New York Children's Grove Park, corner of Myrtle Avenue and Grove Street in Bushwick, Brooklyn

For More Information, Contact: Anti-Violence Project: 212-714-1141

Be Nice To Mice! Ban Glue Pans At Columbia University
November 29, 2008

Mice and other animals often suffer for days in glue traps
Columbia University students in New York are upset that Columbia's Facilities Department is using glue traps to catch and kill rodents on campus. Although officials there have told national animal protection organizations that they will explore humane rodent-control alternatives, they are not responding to our repeated requests that they remove all glue traps currently set out.

Glue traps cause immense and prolonged suffering. An animal trapped on a glue board panics and struggles mightily, resulting in torn skin, broken bones, severed limbs, and further entanglement in the adhesive, only to die--exhausted, frightened, injured, and often covered in excrement--from starvation, dehydration, or asphyxiation. Research indicates that death does not come swiftly, taking more than 24 hours for some animals. Furthermore, glue traps and other lethal methods will not control "nuisance" animal populations. When animals are removed from their habitats, more will move in to consume available resources."

Please thank Columbia University Facilities officials for exploring more humane rodent control methods and urge them to prevent further animal suffering by removing all glue traps from the Columbia Universitycampus immediately.

Please send polite comments to:
Joseph A. Ienuso
Executive Vice President
Columbia University Facilities

Matthew Early
Vice President, Facilities Operations
Columbia University Facilities

Reason 5,999,999 To Get Active In Trap-Neuter-Return
August 23, 2008

On Thursday, August 21, ECC volunteers were returning vaccinated and sterilized cats and kittens to their home territory in a small front yard in Bushwick, Brooklyn. Everything seemed fairly routine: the cats were thrilled to be back in a familiar setting, the caretaker was glad to see the cats were home unharmed, and the reduced number of breeding cats in the neighborhood would inevitably trickle down to mean less homeless companion animals and less cats killed at Animal Care & Control.

ECC volunteers decided they would check out another colony of feral cats that they had heard about, only a block away. While we didn't see cats immediately, we did see a few cats eventually and made plans to return to start working at Trap-Neuter-Returning the cats in that colony. As we were leaving the community garden, a little kitten caught our eye. As we approached her, we were surprised when she didn't move. We quickly realized that the kitten we would soon name Hodgepodge was exceptionally sick and possibly blinded by infection. She was so congested and starving that she looked like she was moments from dying.

We quickly scooped her up and got her the assistance she desperately needed: warm compresses to open her infected eyes, antibiotic ointment and a systemic antibiotic to help with the raging upper respiratory infection, fluids, and some kitten formula for some much needed nourishment. While she might not win the fight against her illness, we are hopeful that we can salvage this little kitten and find her a loving home eventually.

Regardless, Hodgepodge was yesterday's reminder of the importance of spaying and neutering, especially Trap-Neuter-Return work for feral cats. If the Department of Health's Animal Care & Control would engage in Trap-Neuter-Return (rather then enabling and participating in the antiquated capture and kill mentality of feral cat "control") and more members of the public would join our efforts, there would be far fewer victims like Hodgepodge, and far less unnecessary suffering and premature death for cats in New York City.

Hodgepodge is just one of the many reminders why more resources need to be targeted towards spaying and neutering feral, stray and free-roaming cats.

Raccoon Rights
August 19, 2008

Rocky you met your match...
Navigating an urban environment and surviving is often no easy feat for wild animals like raccoons, opossums, squirrels and others. Cars, cruel humans, toxins, development, and intolerance all take their toll on the wild animals who refuse to allow civilization to get the better of them. Each interaction we have with wildlife leaves an opportunity to practice consideration, compassion and respect for our wild neighbors.

Unfortunately, on May 15th, the opportunity to forge a more compassionate attitude towards the creatures who share the five boroughs with us, was lost with the life of a sleepy raccoon. The New York Post reported in Coonskin Capped: E. Side Critter Killed By Cops that police officers attempting to capture a raccoon who was resting in a tree on the Upper East Side terrorized, injured, and eventually sent the raccoon to her death. After police severely injured the raccoon with darts (and joked about harpooning her in front of the public), the dazed animal was taken to Animal Care & Control where she was killed.

The need to capture a raccoon who was simply resting in a tree and showing no signs of abberant behavior is beyond questionable, it's silly. It's common for mother raccoons to be seen during the day - especially when they have young in the nest. The Empty Cages Collective was so distressed by the treatment of this raccoon that we fired off a letter to the editor to the New York Post trying to set the record straight. The letter read:

The recent handling and killing of the raccoon on the Upper East Side ( Coonskin Capped: E. Side Critter Killed By Cops - 5/16/2008 ) is beyond offensive. Raccoons are intelligent, sensitive creatures who deserve our admiration for successfully surviving in this concrete jungle, not abuse and violence.

Justifying unnecessary cruelty due to antiquated fears about rabies would be laughable if it wasn't so common. Healthy mother raccoons sometimes nap in trees or forage during the day when they have nursing and dependent young during this time of year. The officers didn't just "harpoon" a raccoon, but likely orphaned a litter of babies who will now die of starvation, dehydration or exposure for no good reason.

Raccoons and humans can coexist - even in New York City. Tolerance, understanding and thoughtfulness can help solve human/wildlife conflicts without bloodshed. The NYPD and Animal Care & Control would do well to start acting on that fact.

For the sake of the other raccoons who call NYC, we hope attitudes and policies evolve so wild animals don't continue to suffer and die unnecessarily due to fear and ignorance.

Saving Little Lives
February 17, 2008

On Monday, February 18th, Empty Cages Collective volunteers rescued 11 white mice - two mothers, a father, and eight babies - from certain death in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn. The mice were destined to be dinner (for reptiles) or simply abandoned. Empty Cage Collective volunteers found out about the family in need when a New York City Craigslist Ad offered the little ones to anyone who would take them - for any reason - for free. Our fears for the mice's welfare were well-founded. The mice were being used as food for snakes before their "owner" abandoned the snake. Furthermore, the animals offered in "Free" advertisements on Craigslist have a history of enduring abuse. For example, on September 16th, 2007 a man in San Antonio, Texas tortured, mutilated, and disemboweled three gray tabby cats. All of the cats were obtained from Craigslist postings.

Mice are intelligent, sensitive, and clean animals who often get the short end of the compassion stick. Whether it be due to experimentation, the pet trade, cruel methods of "pest" control, or a general attitude of disregard and distaste, mice suffer immensely and die unnecessarily en masse in this culture. For mice deemed "feeders" for exotic "pets" (who shouldn't be imprisoned in captivity to begin with), life means overcrowding, lack of stimulation in their small cages, lack of veterinary care and an unnatural death. Rodents in the wild have the opportunity to escape their natural predators, whereas "feeder" mice and rats never do. White mice are purposefully bred for docility, making them less prepared for an encounter with a snake, lizard, or other predator. They are the unmentioned victims of the exotic animal pet trade.

Luckily for these mice, their future includes clean spacious surroundings, wheels, toys, nutritious food, companionship with members of their own species, fresh water, and compassion from humans. We are looking for good, permanent homes for them. If you would like to donate to their care or are interested in adoption, please contact us at or 1 800-880-2684.

If you would like to help other rodents, please get involved to rid do-it-yourself improvement store Lowes of cruel glue traps. From the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals website:

"Glue traps are among the cruelest pest-control devices on the market today. Animals who get stuck to them suffer for days before they finally die of starvation, dehydration, self-mutilation, and shock. Patches of skin, fur, or feathers are torn from their bodies as they frantically struggle to escape the relentless adhesive.

Many animals resort to chewing off their own limbs in a desperate attempt to free themselves from the traps, and others get their noses, mouths, or beaks stuck in the glue and suffocate. Imagine being stuck in a giant glue trap and having to gnaw off your own leg just to break free.

PETA has presented Lowe's with graphic photos and video footage of small animals, including birds, who suffered painful injuries and died lingering deaths after being ensnared by the cruel traps. But so far, not this, nor the fact that other companies--including CVS, Rite Aid, Albertsons, and Safeway--have banned glue traps because they are so cruel has persuaded Lowe's to do the right thing and get rid of them once and for all."

Please take a moment to write, call AND Fax to the individuals below urging them to stop selling glue traps.

Patti Price, SVP
Robert Niblock, CEO

1000 Lowe's Boulevard
Mooresville, NC 28117
704-757-0611 (fax)

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