The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : 2016 The Pet Tree House - Where Pets Are Family Too : 2016

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Harwood Heights Trustees Approved Revisions to an Existing Animal Cruelty Ordinance that Make it Illegal to Confine an Animal without Access to Shelter

Temperatures in the Chicago area have plunged below freezing, and with months of winter still ahead, officials in Harwood Heights have taken new steps to protect animals from extremely cold weather.

Harwood Heights trustees, at the Dec. 8 village board meeting, approved revisions to an existing animal cruelty ordinance that make it illegal to confine an animal in a way that denies it access to shelter. The revised ordinance makes it an act of cruelty to improperly care for animals by not protecting them from the weather. It also adds to the definition of "abuse and neglect" by including animal owners who leave pets exposed to prolonged periods of unsheltered exposure to extreme cold or heat.

The village already had an ordinance in the books to address the treatment of animals, but Trustee Therese Schuepfer said it lacked clear definitions of several important terms when determining the state of animal care.

"The amendment added new definitions to reduce any ambiguity," Schuepfer said. "There were not precipitating events that prompted this change, rather the amendment of this ordinance is a reflection of our ongoing attempt to provide clear statements of village ordinances."

In Harwood Heights, the updated anti-cruelty ordinance gives the village more authority to enforce measures to protect pets. Pet owners who get caught leaving what the village defines as a "companion animal" — a cat, dog or horse — outside in the cold, for a period of time long enough to cause the animal to suffer, could face penalties, including fines and losing custody of their pet.

Police officers, under the updated ordinance, can now enter private property to investigate complaints of animal cruelty. If a pet owner refuses entry, authorities can get a search warrant to enter, according to the ordinance. Mistreated animals can be confiscated by the village, and pet owners who violate the animal cruelty law can face a fine of between $500 and $5,000 for each violation. The fines would be decided by an administrative hearing officer.

The action was approved unanimously as part of the consent agenda.

Determining a pet's threshold for cold weather is simple, according to Dr. Robyn Barbiers, president of the Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago. She said if it's too cold for a human, then it's too cold for an animal. Different dog breeds are able to handle cold weather better than others, such as a husky, which is protected by the winter chill by its dense fur designed for cold climates, Barbiers said. But many dogs with thinner hair, like pit bulls and greyhounds, for example, get cold faster.

"What many people sometimes don't realize is that pets get frostbite on their extremities like ears and feet, just like humans," Barbiers said.

Frostbite, in part caused by the cold slowing a pet's blood flow, is just one of the dangers cold conditions pose to pets. Road salt and ice can become lodged in the paws of cats and dogs, causing discomfort and sometimes cuts if the ice is sharp enough, according to Barbiers.

She said cats need protection from the cold, too. Barbiers advises people to call their local animal control if they see a cat roaming outdoors in the cold and to try to contain the animal in a garage or porch until help arrives.

"If it's a free-roaming cat, it has to be picked up," Barbiers said. "A lot of stray cats can be adopted, or if they're feral, they can be placed into colonies."

She said extremely cold conditions, which the Chicago area has been experiencing in December, can be especially dangerous for dogs, cats and other animals whose owners leave them in a yard with no shelter from the wind and snow.

"Unfortunately, some pet owners view animals as property and not as part of the family," Barbiers said. "Any pets left outside need adequate shelter, and that doesn't mean a simple wooden dog house, but one with proper bedding that's raised off the ground and protects from the wind and wet weather."

Other tips on helping pets survive the winter offered by Barbiers include honking the horn of a car before starting the engine (a small animal could have crawled inside for warmth) and cleaning up any antifreeze spills to protect pets and wildlife from poisoning.


How To Send A Care Package To A Dog Serving Overseas

Military Working Dogs (MWD) are a vital part of the US Armed Forces. These highly trained pups work side by side with their handlers in war zones as trackers or sentries, in search and rescue, explosive detection and so much more. Interested in sending these hard working canines a little TLC? Below we’ve listed several ways you can send or contribute to care packages for these well deserving pups and their handlers…

**Disclaimer – It’s important to contact each organization before you send your donation or package to verify shipping details.

The United States War Dog Association, Inc. 

This non-profit organization has been sending care packages to US military dogs all over the world since 2003. President of the organization, Ron Aiello, told BarkPost that packages are sent all year round. To send specific items, visit their website here for a full list of approved donations. You can also make a financial contribution by donating here.

To read more on this story, click here: How To Send A Care Package To A Dog Serving Overseas


An Artist Recreates the Wild Wild West Out of Discarded Farm Equipment

Recreating the wild wild west out of discarded farm equipment, South Dakota-based artist John Lopez’s amazing metal sculptures will blow your mind! Check them out below:

Eco-friendly and full of personality, these welded figures perfectly capture the iconography of the American West — a bison, a horse with a plow, a Texas Longhorn — a past reconfigured out of recycled materials.

Lopez began his career as a bronze sculptor, but realized the versatility of scrap metal when he forged a family grave for his deceased aunt. It creates a unique aesthetic, a kind of mishmash punk sensibility in his beautiful and imposing artwork.

It pays respect to the past while also playing with the idea of renewing and reconfiguring familiar imagery into something completely different. Where have you seen a cowboy riding a dinosaur before?

“My favorite part about these pieces is the texture,” explains Lopez. “I just start grabbin’ stuff from the pile and welding it, in and if you weld enough of the same thing on over and over it creates this really cool texture that I’ve never seen in these kinds of pieces before. And I think that’s what draws people in.”

Blurring the line between organic, artificial, and symbol, Lopez’s art is sure to leave an impact! It’s striking how well they blend into the Midwestern scenery.


San Francisco International Airport Introduced “Lilou” the Therapy Pig

San Francisco International Airport introduced “Lilou” the therapy pig this week as the newest member of the airport’s Wag Brigade. And, not surprisingly, she's the first airport therapy pig in the United States, airport spokesman Doug Yakel said, adding that he's sure she'll be a "big hit" with travelers.

Lilou happily let passengers pet her pink snout and her back (all the while wearing a pilot’s cap and a blue tutu) while walking through the busy terminals. At one point on Monday, Lilou did circles and ate treats to entertain the crowds. Lilou wasn't immediately available to snort and oink for an interview, but of course, she has an Instagram page, where she touted her new gig: "City pig & the 1st pig in SF SPCA AAT program."

One traveler tweeted that she was more excited to meet Lilou than any celebrity.

SFO launched the Wag Brigade in 2013 and Lilou is the first pig to join the ranks of friendly dogs, named Bailey and Biggie, to make “passenger travel more enjoyable.” The dogs — and now, one pig — are trained through the San Francisco Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and certified through their Animal Assisted Therapy Program.

SFSPCA spokeswoman Krista Maloney said the idea for the pig came straight from the swine's owner, Tatyana Danilova.

"She was very interested in having Lilou become certified as a therapy animal," Maloney said. So except for the "sit" and "down" commands, Lilou jumped through the same training hoops that dogs do, and passed with flying colors, Maloney said.

"She's friendly and she's pretty well trained," Maloney said, adding that Lilou also visits hospitals and senior homes to give comfort there as well. "She's also housebroken, which is pretty important in an airport."


Friday, December 9, 2016

9-Week-Old Goldendoodle to Become the Trump Family’s First Dog

There is a long and storied history of presidential pets and the roles that they play in an administration. Checkers, a cocker spaniel, helped (briefly) save Richard Nixon’s career. The Clintons’ chocolate Lab, Buddy, and cat, Socks, provided ample, family-friendly distractions from less pleasant matters. Not content to live a life of leisure, President George H.W. Bush’s springer spaniel, Millie, “wrote” a best-seller called Millie’s Book that offered insights into the life of the first family. Martin Van Buren had tiger cubs. Thomas Jefferson and Theodore Roosevelt had bears, and Calvin Coolidge had a pygmy hippopotamus! Presidents have frequently cottoned on to the pleasure of pet ownership, not least for their warm and fuzzy public relations opportunities. (After listening to Nixon’s “Checkers” speech, a tearful Mamie Eisenhower reportedly told her husband that any man who loves dogs has to be honest.) And perhaps the Trumps will be no different.

A Palm Beach–based philanthropist named Lois Pope told the Washington Post that she has been training a 9-week-old Goldendoodle to become the Trump family’s First Dog. Pope, who has named the puppy Patton, after General George Patton, the World War II general whom Trump often publicly admires (most recently in the installment of his “victory tour” in Cincinnati), said that she has known the family for the past 20 years. She even showed the president-elect a picture of the dog at Mar-A-Lago, she said, in the hopes that the family will take him on as a companion for their 10-year-old son, Barron, who will likely face a tough adjustment ahead. “It’s going to be hard for me to let him go,” Pope told the Post of Patton, who is to receive what she calls “hero dog training,” and who, at the time of their interview, was gnawing on a basket. “But I will do it. Because [Barron] is more important than I am.”

Trump’s camp has not issued any public decisions about Patton, but it may be worth noting that his family has a history of preferring to hunt animals rather than care for them. And while a Goldendoodle (a historically clever, friendly breed favored by young families who abhor shedding) is certainly on brand for a president-elect with a predilection for that particular metal, one has to wonder: Would a Trump endorsed ’doodle help that breed or hurt it? Back in 2009, pet owners fretted that an Obama-provoked spike in Portuguese water dog popularity would incite “101 Dalmatians syndrome.” At a dog park in lower Manhattan, one Goldendoodle owner wrinkled her nose at the suggestion that Trump would soon be synonymous with her pet. “God,” she said, “I hope not.”


Jacksonville, Florida Man Offering His Pickup Truck as Reward for Return of His Dog, Buddy Boy

A Jacksonville man desperate to find his missing dog is offering his pickup truck as a reward to whoever can reunite him with his beloved pet.

In a plea plastered across several Facebook pages, James O’Sicky announced he’ll hand over the 2002 GMC pickup in exchange for the safe return of his 3-year-old pit bull-boxer mix, Buddy Boy.

O’Sicky, 31, acknowledged Friday he can’t afford to part ways with the truck but said he’s willing to do whatever it takes to get Buddy Boy back.

“The truck is replaceable, the dog’s not,” he said.

He said Buddy Boy was nowhere to be found when he arrived at his New Berlin Road home between 1 and 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.

“The only thing I can imagine is he jumped the fence going after a squirrel or something,” O’Sicky said.

Since getting the word out online Thursday, he said his phone has been buzzing nonstop with messages from friends and total strangers pledging their time and energy to help search.

None of the handful of sightings reported as of Friday afternoon had turned up any sign of the dog, O’Sicky said, but he’s not losing hope.

“It’s torn me up,” he said. “I try to keep my head up though.”

O’Sicky said Buddy Boy, who’s got a white bib and brindle coat and sometimes flashes an underbite, has been by his side since he was a puppy and traveled with him from New Jersey when the pair moved to Jacksonville.

He said for the past few days he’s been wracked by a mix of emotions.

On one hand, he’s worried about his constant companion; on the other, he’s been moved by the generosity and support from everyone who’s reached out.

“I can’t begin to thank all the people that are looking for my dog,” he said.

Garrett Pelican: (904) 359-4385


British Trained Racehorse Actinpieces, Refuses to be Ridden by a Male Jockey

British-trained racehorse Actinpieces only wants to be powered by a girl and refuses to be ridden by a male jockey.

"She's not too keen on men," her trainer Pamela Sly explains to CNN. "I've never had a horse who's been like this before."

Actinpieces is exclusively ridden by Gina Andrews or, if she's not available, then her little sister Bridget climbs into the saddle. When 18-year-old Jack tried to step in for his sisters, it didn't end well.

"She tried to buck him off as soon as he got on," Sly reveals, followed by a devilish laugh.

"When he went to get on her she tried to bite him," explains jockey Gina. "It's quite funny because she doesn't normally do it when I get on. She's only had women riders."

Jack shouldn't take it personally, Actinpieces is clearly a woman-only horse.

"If a man went up to her in the yard she'll put her ears back," she explains. "It's a bit weird.

"There is an old boy, Bryan Drabner, who grooms and looks after her every day. She's all right with him but I think she's confused because he's got long hair!

"I also had Speciosa, who won the 1,000 Guineas at Newmarket, and she did not like people in her box at all whether it was male or female.

"She would turn her backside on you and have a go but that was how she was and we managed."

Cambridgeshire-based Sly did initially ask a male jockey to try out Actinpieces when she made her debut over hurdles last season.

"The boys didn't want to rider her," Sly explains. "They said she was lethal. 

She wasn't very easy to break in.

"Gina has been riding for me since she was 16 and I asked her if she wanted to ride her and she said 'course I will.'

"When Gina goes out to get on her she always puts out her hand to let her have a sniff before she gets on. She's fine."

Jockeys are riders for hire and many dash up and down the UK for as many as 10 rides a day.

This peripatetic lifestyle means it is hard to build relationships with horses -- let alone any humans -- but Andrews says Actinpiece's unique gender preference means they have built up an unusual rapport.

"I ride her at home and do some schooling with her as well as racing," the 24-year-old explains. "I've got to know her and it tends to work better.
"Different riders get on with some horses better than others but it depends on the way you ride and adapt to the horse.

"I enjoy riding her. I'm not a professional jockey so I don't ride that much. Pam has been very loyal to me and not taken me off her which she could quite easily have when she realized she was quite good."

Actinpieces was first past the post three times over the hurdles last season and is showing promise over jumps this winter.

"We really want to try and win a chase with her," says Sly who also owns the five-year-old. "She ran really well over fences at Wetherby but jumped the last, slipped and unshipped Gina."

Winning Return
Actinpieces resumed her racing career at Wetherby on Wednesday.
And, beating the odds-on favorite ZeroShadesofGrey at the Yorkshire racecourse, Gina guided her singular steed across the line first to take the win.

"She won't be running in races like the Grand National or the Cheltenham Gold Cup but she's progressing," Andrews adds. "She's still one of the best I've ever ridden.

"She is temperamental. She only gives you one chance. You have to get it right the first time or that's it.

"You could say she's a bit of a woman -- she likes things her way!"
The feisty gray filly may be tricky to ride but she is also exacting and that just may be why a woman's touch works best.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

A Domestic Pet Turkey Was Stolen from His Home Saturday in Chestertown, Maryland: Reward Offered for Return

Scout the turkey was taken from Double Creek Road and Route 544. He is much larger than a wild turkey and weighs between 50 and 60 pounds.

The pet finding organization Dogs Finding Dogs came and tracked Scout and determined he was not killed by a predator.

The Humane Society of Kent County says it is likely Scout was placed in a vehicle and driven away. The tracking dog from Dogs Finding Dogs alerted that he may be in the woods across from Klinefeller Lane on Route 544.

Anyone with information is asked to call 410-991-5147 or the Humane Society of Kent County at 410-778-3648 with any information or sightings.

There is a reward for any information.


Washington, DC - Looking to Add a New Furry Friend to Your Family? Adoption Fees Waived – November 25 –27: Humane Rescue Alliance

Why spend Black Friday in long, boring lines at retail stores when you can visit the Humane Rescue Alliance and add a new furry friend to your family!

Adoption Fees Waived Nov. 25 – 27 - Courtesy of Zappos’ “Home for the Pawlidayz” Program

Beginning Friday, November 25h through Sunday, November 27th, the Humane Rescue Alliance will be waiving adoption fees for all available animals at our two adoptions centers and through our foster program.  All available animals can be seen at our website:  (Washington, DC dog licenses fees still apply and normal adoption procedures will be in place). 

The Humane Rescue Alliance is teaming up with Zappos and Best Friends Animal Society to help 9,000 pets nationwide find forever homes this holiday season.   Adoption fees during this promotion are being covered by Zappos at all participating adoptions facilities across the country.

Animals adopted from the Humane Rescue Alliance have been spayed/neutered and micro chipped. 

To take a look at some of the dogs currently available for adoption click HERE
Then click on: Search for a dog by location, then click search.

To take a look at some of the cats currently available for adoption click HERE.
Then click on: Search for a cat by location, then click search.

They also have a variety of small animals available for adoption. To take a look at some of these animals, click HERE
Then click on: Search for a small animal by location, then click search.

Humane Rescue Alliance Adoptions Centers:

71 Oglethorpe Street, NW                    
Washington, DC                                  
Adoption hours:  Noon – 7 p.m.

1201 New York Avenue, NE
Washington, DC
Adoption hours:  Noon – 7 p.m.

About the Humane Rescue Alliance: 
The Humane Rescue Alliance (formerly the Washington Humane Society-Washington Animal Rescue League) has protected and served the animals of the community for more than 145 years and serves more than 60,000 animals annually. The broad range of programs offered include: rescue and adoption, humane law enforcement, low-cost veterinary services, animal care and control, behavior and training, spay-neuter services, humane education, and many others. The organization is dedicated to ensuring the safety and welfare of all animals, bringing people and animals together, and working with all communities to support these relationships.  HRA is based in Washington, DC, the only major urban area in the country that has all of its animal protection programs and services unified in one organization, making the Humane Rescue Alliance a model for the nation.


Thursday, November 17, 2016

The 43rd President, George W. Bush, and His Wife, Former First Lady Laura Bush, Adopted a Dog from the SPCA of Texas

“We already love him!” George W. Bush, his wife Laura adopt a puppy named Freddy!

George W. Bush made a very important announcement on Facebook Monday — he adopted a puppy.

The 43rd President posted on Facebook that he and his wife, former first lady Laura Bush, adopted a dog from the SPCA of Texas and named him Freddy Bush.

“We already love him, and even our cats Bob and Bernadette are finding Freddy’s charm futile to resist,” Bush wrote on his Facebook.

It’s no secret that the Bush family adores their dogs. Barney Bush was the famous Scottish Terrier who was at the White House during Bush’s administration. The pup even had his own White House website and was often referred to as “First Dog” while Bush was in office.

Barney died at age 12 in 2013, after Bush left the White House. Miss Beazley, the Bush’s other Scottish Terrier, died in 2014 at age nine.

In the Facebook post, Bush advocated for adopting or rescuing dogs from shelters.

“If you could use a little extra joy in your life, consider adopting a pet from an animal shelter or rescue group,” he wrote.


A Bear Was Shot and Killed Thursday Morning After a Woman in Frederick, Maryland Was Attacked

Frederick, Maryland - A bear was shot and killed Thursday morning after a woman in Frederick, Maryland was attacked the evening before, the Department of Natural Resources confirmed.

According to officials, around 9:30 p.m. 63-year-old Karen Osborne was walking to her son-in-law's house next door to check on their dog that was barking when she was attacked by the bear on Irongate Lane, in between Baltimore National Pike and Shookstown Road. It appears the woman got in between the bear her cubs. The bear weighed 200 pounds.

"It was not a bear that was sort of laying in wait for the homeowner. The best we can tell is she went down a dark driveway with a dog. There was another dog in the driveway off leash and the sow had her cubs there and she reacted to what she believed was a threat."

Police reported, Osborne suffered a broken arm, cuts to her head, and puncture wounds to both arms.



A Miniature Horse Was Found Wandering in Okeechobee, Florida: Is in Need of a Home - If Not Claimed by November 18th, It May be Euthanized – Please Share

Okeechobee, Flordia -  There is encouraging news for a miniature horse found abandoned in Okeechobee.

The Okeechobee County Sheriff's Office Animal Control says it believes it has identified the owner of the mini horse, named "Little Sammy." Animal Control is now trying to locate the owner.

The extremely adorable mini pony was found abandoned roaming on various properties. The Sheriff's Office said it escaped its pen.

Okeechobee County Sheriff's Office Animal Control officers took the pony into their possession.

Officials said if the above livestock is not claimed by the 18th of November, "it shall be offered for adoption, auction, or disposed of humanely."

For information:
Okeechobee County Sheriff Animal Control

HOURS: 10 a.m. - 4 p.m.

1480 NW 25th Dr

Okeechobee, FL 34972

(863) 357-3225


Monday, November 14, 2016

Furry Pet Atchoumfan Has Left Twitter Baffled After a User Posted a Picture of Him Saying…”Is This a Cat or Dog?”

Everyone loves an optical illusion, but the latest visual tease to leave the internet confused is something a little different.

Furry pet Atchoumfan has left Twitter baffled after a user posted a picture of him saying: 'Her - "do you have a dog or a cat?" Me - "I don't know".

The image of the enigmatic creature has been retweeted over 12,000 times and liked over 22,00 times as users tried to figure out what kind of animal they were looking at.

Barb Leflar Jackson couldn't figure it out at all, saying: “Yeah, what IS that?” while FreebieBean joked it was an owl, adding: “Whatever it is I want it.”

Stillchip was sure they were looking at a feline, saying: “While the ears are barely visible, the eyes are a dead giveaway. The pupil shape is cat all the way.”

Noonefollowsme agreed making the point that “the eyes never lie”, adding: “Those are cats eyes”.

Summersanz joked “it's a Cog Dat” while ‏JulieCTaylor said: “Definitely a dog. Very cute!”

Eventually, the person behind the Twitter account revealed that the creature is in fact a cat.

The pet is already internet famous in its own right, not just for being half-cat-half-dog.  

He has over 162k followers on hisInstagram page where he is described as a “young male Persian with hypertrichosis. I'm hairy not scary!”

The owner of Atchoum regularly keeps followers up-to-date with what the feline is doing and he can often be seen wearing a funky-colored bow tie.
He also appears to have been featured in magazines, campaigns and has even been in shows.

Atchoum also has a website dedicated to him. It says: “Hello and bonjour! I'm Atchoum, the hairy but not scary Persian kitten from Quebec, Canada. I purr with a French accent.”

“Some people say my wild furs and intense amber eyes make me look like a dog, an owl, a mad scientist, a Gremlin, Lorax or the Grinch but I'm happy to be me.

I love life and love sharing my adventures every day with you!”


This Cats Reaction to Kate Middleton is Making Our Day

When you’re a cat and you’re famous, everyone else falls beneath you. Even Kate Middleton, Duchess of Cambridge, is a simple serf in the eyes of famed felines. Bob the Cat was formally introduced to Kate Middleton at his movie premiere yesterday. And Bob was, well, underwhelmed.

Bob plays himself in the film A Street Cat Named Bob, the true story about James Bowen, a recovering addict who finds solace in a stray cat. Being the star that he is, Bob arrived to the red carpet in style, wearing his signature red scarf.

One of those excited fans was Kate Middleton, who also arrived in style. The Duchess donned a simple, yet elegant, white gown, reminiscent of her wedding dress. The crocheted lace top and sleeves are classy yet casual. Her red poppy pin, a symbol of recognition for those who have fought in war, proudly stands out against the lace.

We’re loving the contrast between the modest neckline and the thigh-hight slit in the skirt. Being the much-admired Duchess, Kate must stick to a demure dress code. But showing a little leg once in a while won’t hurt anyone, right?

To read more on this story, click here: This Cat’s Reaction to Kate Middleton is Making Our Day


Sunday, November 13, 2016

Meet Big Jake, The World’s Tallest Horse

Horses are majestic creatures and the subject of many stories, both fanciful and realistic. Something about a horse just appeals to mankind, and Big Jake is no different, though he tends to generate greater awe and excitement than most horses. Holding the Guinness World Record for the tallest horse in both 2010 and 2013, Big Jake stands 6 feet 10.75 inches tall. People tend to be speechless when they catch their first glance of the mighty Belgian.

A native of Nebraska, Big Jake was bought and moved to Poynette, Wis., where he currently lives on Smokey Hollow Farm with his owner Jerry Gilbert. Big Jake is a Belgian draft horse. According to PetBreeds, the Belgian draft horse was bred in the country of Belgium to do heavy work. Being the strongest breed of draft horse, the Belgian is ideal for work in forestry and logging as well as agriculture. Some people even use the Belgians for riding since these massive horses can carry a heavier load.

Of course, sustaining the massive size of a draft horse isn't cheap. In his YouTube interview, Gilbert says that Big Jake eats 1.5 bales of hay a day and 32 quarts of oats. That's a lot of food!

Besides being a big horse with a big appetite, Big Jake has a big heart. According to his website, Big Jake is also a supporter of the Madison, Wis., Ronald McDonald House. What an amazing horse! He truly takes your breath away!


SeaWorld: Rewards Employees for Staying Quiet in the Face of Clear Cases of Abuse

This week, trainers from around the world will arrive at SeaWorld for the International Marine Animal Trainers’ Association conference. The event is likely to draw controversy, as the Chicago-based IMATA has come under recent fire for its policy allowing trainers to participate in the violent Taiji dolphin hunts.

A change in this policy is long overdue. But as a former trainer myself, I can attest that IMATA’s stance is symptomatic of a much deeper culture of turning a blind eye to cruelty - one that runs throughout the marine park industry, including SeaWorld.

For 12 years, I worked alongside Smooshi, an 800-pound walrus, as a marine mammal trainer at Marineland. In that time I saw a lot of bad things, from repeated animal neglect to mass graves.

Even though the conditions were shocking, nothing could have prepared me for the cult-like work environment that rewarded employees for staying quiet in the face of clear cases of abuse.

If you speak out, there’s hell to pay.

I found this out the hard way. When I blew the whistle on Marineland’s dodgy practices, they sued me for $1.5 million. And I am just one of 15 whistleblowers, along with others from parks like SeaWorld, who finally said enough is enough.

Though it may look fun from the outside, working as a marine animal trainer is a tough gig. I loved Smooshi like family and wanted to protect her, but I also knew I was part of the problem.

When she first arrived at Marineland in a small wooden box, Smooshi was just 18 months old. The vet came to take her blood for a health check and she was terrified. She ran to me looking for help and we instantly bonded.

The two of us became inseparable. Smooshi would follow me around the park and bark incessantly when she couldn’t see me. Television shows like Jimmy Kimmel even ran stories about us, with the headline “Walrus in love”. I did worry about Smooshi and the other animals’ living conditions, but my concerns were ignored by management.

Even though I was paid to look the other way, the realities of captivity were difficult to ignore. At times, the water was so caustic with chlorine it caused blindness to the animals and gave Smooshi chemical burns. I’d run my hand over dolphins and watch as their skin literally flaked off. Six of the park’s seven seals were blind or had serious eye problems due to the high levels of chlorine.

Some days there would be mysterious bloodstains on the floor I’d have to mop up, no questions asked. One time I even found myself in a mass animal grave, digging up Kandu, a wild-caught orca from Iceland, because his necropsy wasn’t done properly the first time around.

Another cruel aspect trainers are forced to look the other way on, is how wild animals are collected. Marine parks often promote their animals as “rescues” when really they are deliberately captured from the wild and stolen from their families. I am guilty of shying away from this reality myself, because Smooshi didn’t come to Marineland as a rescue walrus. She was captured in the Black Sea in Russia.

Since leaving the park, I can see the truth: Smooshi should never have been in captivity in the first place. Capturing marine animals like walruses, beluga whales and dolphins is a violent and cruel process. And putting them in sterile, unnatural environments is torture, even with the so-called “best” care there is.

It’s terrible how many marine parks and trainers are still involved in the wild capture of marine animals, even though reaction to movies like Blackfish and The Cove show the general public clearly don’t agree with it.

Perhaps the most shocking thing is that the peak body for trainers in the United States, IMATA, still actually allows their trainers to be involved in the Taiji dolphin hunts. This is one of the most controversial wild capture operations in the world, yet IMATA gives its trainers permission to participate and select dolphins for sale to marine parks.

For many young people, a job at a marine park is an all-access pass to touch and play with animals. It’s a reward every young child wants - until they learn the truth.


The World's Oldest Living Animal Get His First Bath at 184-Years-Old

The world's oldest living animal is starting over with a clean sheet at 184 years old - after a vet gave him his first ever bath.

Jonathan the giant tortoise has come out of his shell after centuries of grime were painstakingly scrubbed off his back with a loofah, soft brush and surgical soap.

Dr. Joe Hollins, the vet for the British Outpost of St. Helena in the south Atlantic where Jonathan lives, decided to give him a spruce up ahead of a royal visit in a few weeks' time.

He carefully scrubbed each of the segments of Jonathan's shell, known as scutes, and removed black sludge and bird droppings while the tortoise sedately chewed on grass.

Surgical soap was chosen as it is not caustic and soft brushes and a loofah were gently used to avoid damage to his shell.

After his bath Dr. Hollins noticed that the rings on his shell were completely worn away. These rings are used to tell the tortoises’ age.

There was no medical reason for his hour-long soak. They were expecting a visit in May, by an unknown royal for the dedication of a new airport on the tiny island of St. Helena.

The spring clean comes months after Jonathan, who was aged 50 when he arrived on the historic isle in 1882, was placed on a special high calorie diet as it was feared that his health was declining.

Dr. Hollins, believes it is Jonathan's first ever bath.

He said, “In the past Jonathan's keepers had a rather laid back attitude to the tortoises on St. Helena, and this is probably his first bath he’s had in 184 years.

He looks so much cleaner and he seemed to enjoy the whole experience.

He stood like a statue when I was washing him, I don't know if it was the vibrations that he found so soothing, or if he was thinking "at last, I've had my first bath!"

“I used water, surgical scrub, loofah and a little brush to slowly cleaned him.

He doesn't look any younger, but he does look different. He is much paler and you can see the rings on his shell have almost completely disappeared.
He had black deposits on his shell that came from wear and tear. As far as I could see his shell is in great condition for his age.”

Hopefully he won't have to wait another 185 years before his next bath!
Jonathan, is 45ins long and stands about 2 feet tall, arrived on St. Helena as a gift to the governor from the Seychelles.”

In his time on St. Helena he has seen 28 British governors come and go. Eight British monarchs from George IV to Elizabeth II have been crowned during his lifetime, and 51 British Prime Ministers have served at 10 Downing Street.

Private tours were arranged in the past for visitors to meet Jonathan around the Governor's house.

He currently shares his enclosure with four other giant tortoises - David, Emma, Frederika and Myrtle.

Although he has lost his sense of smell and his eyesight is fading, Jonathan is said to be in good health.

Dr. Hollins, will now start cleaning some of the other tortoises, and some of them are dirtier than Jonathan.

Following the death of Harriet, a 175-year-old giant Galapagos Land tortoise, in 2005 in Australia, Jonathan has been recognized as the world's oldest living land animal.

St. Helena was chosen as the place of Emperor Napoleon's second exile and the French dictator died there in 1821.

You may be interested in reading: A Tortoise Named Jonathan is Believed to be the World’s Oldest Known Living Land Creature