For the past several years, I've been involved with animal rescue, as well as with writing about conflicts between animal rescue organizations, animal control officers and the police departments they are part of. I was very upset to learn about the livestock that were taken from the Woodbridge Animal control and placed at a local farm.
For background, read the two articles from the New Haven Register, Woodbridge cops take heat for removing livestock from animal shelter and Woodbridge police tell their side of livestock story
Let's try to read between the lines of the two stories to get a clearer understanding of what may have happened.
"Tuesday morning, the police placed 21 animals at a Seymour Road farm. The livestock had been kept at the Bradley Road animal shelter between six and 10 months."...
"“They knew Sgt. (Ed) Thomas was looking to move these animals,” Stuart said Tuesday. Thomas directly oversees operation of the animal shelter, which serves Bethany, Derby and Woodbridge. He could not be reached for comment Tuesday and was out of the office Wednesday."...
"Animal Control Officers Karen Lombardi and Paul Neidmann have said they were caught completely off guard by the officers showing up at the facility and announcing they were removing the animals."
The way this reads to me is that Sgt. Thomas was looking to move these animals potentially for quite a while. Yet Animal Control Officers Lombardi and Neidmann who were in regular contact with the animals and people interested in the animals did not believe that this was an appropriate time for the animals to be moved. Sgt. Thomas pulled rank, with the support of his superiors and acted in a way that was not in the best interest of the animals. This would make Asst. Police Chief Stuart's statement about the animal control officers knowing that Sgt. Thomas was looking to move the animals also fit with their statements about being caught completely off guard.
The fact that Sgt. Thomas could not be reached for comment on Tuesday and was out of the office on Wednesday makes me all the more suspicious of his actions. If he was honestly acting in the best interest of the animals and of the town, he should have made himself available and explained why his actions were better for the animals than what the animal control officers believed.
“I have adopted many animals from there, including chickens, and every time, even though they know me, I had to fill out an adoption application. Why wasn’t that done for more than 20 animals?” she asked….
Several residents raised concerns that the animals were not adopted legally, which would include filling out forms. But Thomas said livestock are not adopted, they are simply placed, and no forms are required….
Thomas said paperwork is only required by the state for the adoption of cats and dogs….
Ray Connors, supervisor of the Animal Control Division of the state Department of Agriculture, confirmed there is no required paperwork for livestock…
He said there should be something in writing concerning the animals’ new owners….
Thomas said Woodbridge police have recorded the new owner’s contact information….
The way I read this is that it is not a requirement of State Law that when animals other than cats or dogs are adopted that paperwork be filled out. That doesn't mean that it isn't a best practice that the Animal Control Officers in Woodbridge has followed and should continue to follow. Again, it seems like Officer Thomas was acting within the letter of the law, but not in the best interest of the animals or of the town.
This raises another issue that should be considered. There seems to be this view that 'livestock' are some how less of a pet than cats or dogs. Yet, with more and more people having pot bellied pigs, pygmy goats, miniature donkeys and other 'livestock' as pets, this needs to be reconsidered. Perhaps the State Laws need to be changed to reflect changes in the nature of pet ownership in our state. Lacking that, clear policies agreed upon by the Animal Control Officers, the Police Commission and the Board of Selectman should be made available which recognize that 'livestock' often are pets and should be afforded similar protections.
This brings up another problem with some of the police response.
Officer Rich Monaco said the farm’s owners can “absolutely care for the animals.” He said police visited the farm before and after the animals were relocated.
“This farm is an animal’s dream,” Monaco said. “These animals have a good home. They went from a temporary shelter environment to their more natural environment.”
If you are thinking of a pot bellied pig as a farm animal, that might be right. If you are not paying attention to any specific health needs of the animals, that might be correct. However, if you are thinking about pets that need special care, this may be the furthest thing from the truth.
This gets to my penultimate point.
Police said their general orders require animal control officers to find homes for all animals, including livestock, “as soon as practicable.”
From all that I can see, the decision of when it is practicable should be made by Animal Control Officers and not by bureaucrats with an ax to grind acting arbitrarily and capriciously.
Because of all of this, and in light of
Sheehy has the power to order the livestock returned to the animal shelter, but he said Thursday he plans to attend today’s police commission meeting with an open mind.
I have called First Selectman Sheehy asked him to order the livestock returned to the animal shelter. In addition, I strongly encourage the Police Commission to carefully consider if Sgt. Thomas has acted in the best interest of the town and of the animals, and if there is doubt about that, to find a chain of command for the Animal Control Officers that will better serve the town, its citizens and its animals.
Wednesday, January 9th, the 2013 regular session of the Connecticut General Assembly convenes. People who have been reading my blog regularly will recall that I ran for State Representative last year, and if I had been elected, I would be getting sworn in on Wednesday.
Yet when I tell people about my campaign, I often tell them, that while I didn't get elected, I did win. I won by getting a chance to discuss important issues that our state faces. I won by giving voters a choice, even if they didn't end up choosing me. I won by having an opportunity to encourage people to become more involved in their government.
In one of my final campaign pieces, I encouraged people to stay involved. To start attending school board meetings, events at their places of worship or social clubs in their community, perhaps even attending town halls talking about what is going on up in Hartford.
Since election day, a lot of things have gone on and there are many things that the people in our community should be talking about, so I've set up an event that will take place at a local restaurant.
The first Citizen's Town Hall in the Woodbridge, Orange, Derby (and perhaps Hamden, Bethany, etc), will be Thursday 1/10 at 6:30 at Wheelers. Join us. Let's talk about the legislative agenda and what you'd like to see happen.
People often warn high school kids about social media. Those pictures you post may end up affecting which schools you get into or which jobs you get offered. It is a valid point. There is still stuff I posted online over thirty years ago that, if you know what you're looking for, you can find. This is different than some of the posts from my written journal thirty years ago that I started posting online.
About twelve years ago, I went to a group relations conference in Holland. There was one moment I particularly remember. The group consultants changed roles and became members of the group. One of them made a comment about being able to just blurt things out, without thinking about the effect their comments would have on the group.
It seems like many adults on Facebook don't post material that they will be embarrassed about when they are looking for their next job, but they still blurt things out, without thinking about the effect their posts will have. I've been thinking about this a lot since Sandy Hook.
I've tried to post more positive material; highlighting compassion, cooperation and creativity, and trying to avoid the more polarized posts. One blog post that I wrote about video games started a bit of a discussion on Facebook, and one hyper-partisan individual resorted to 'argumentum ad ridiculum'. Unfortunately, it made him look ridiculous and did nothing to move forward the discussion at hand.
Perhaps this becomes even more important if you are a public figure, as Rep. Hovey discovered this weekend.
Yet does sharing positive stories make a difference? Yesterday, I shared a post about the Orange Lions Club Annual Wine and Beer Tasting. It is a fundraiser helping the Lions combat blindness. One of the organizers thanked me for sharing it and I appreciated her kind words. Hopefully, it will get a few more people to attend the event.
Now this is not to say that all posts need to be promoting the public good. It is important to be real, to be authentic online. I've set up a Facebook List of CT State Legislators were I get a sense at what those legislators who have friended me on Facebook or have public figure pages are writing about. Sometimes, they root for football teams. Sometimes they play Farmville. Sometimes they post pictures of having dinner with friends and sometimes, they share posts that can have a positive impact on their friends and constituents..
I hope everyone tries to have at least some of their posts make a positive impact on the people around them.
After college, I moved into an old cinnamon factory with a bunch of aspiring artists in New York City to be a writer. I was most interested in writing poems and short stories. I also had dreams of writing a great novel, but end up writing mostly computer programs.
Fast forward three decades, and I'm sitting in a nice house in suburbia writing blog posts on a laptop computer; a writing implement and genre that didn't exist back in the spice factory days. My online writing style continues to evolve. There have been times that I've written daily, sometimes, not very eloquently, in an effort to hone my craft. Other times, I've just been too busy to write regularly.
I'm starting off 2013 with a good string of blog post, but I've got a busy week ahead. I have to get non-blog writing done for other projects as well.
I'm also spending time trying to find things to inspire me and stimulate my creativity. Yesterday, I ended up on Sarah Kay's Ted talk, If I should have a daughter …
It got me thinking. Should I start hitting some of the poetry open mics? Should I start writing some more poetic blog posts to be read allowed, and then make a video of me reading them which I could share on YouTube? NPR has been doing an interesting series of having poets visit their news room and write poems about the experience and the day's news. Could I do a spoken word poetic news recap, perhaps drawing from other experiments in creative news, from the Daily Show to Autotune the news?
For politics, could I, a former, and perhaps future, political candidate, deliver spoken word poetic stump speeches?
I hope to give some of this a shot, perhaps even today, Epiphany, if I get the time.
Recently, Matthew Katz, a social media savvy doctor I've become friends with put up a blog post, Defending Our Youth: No First Person Shooter Video Games. I've shared his blog post and there has been a very interesting discussion on the topic which I will try and summarize and add my own comments.
Dr. Katz wrote this as part of a larger opus dealing with gun violence from a public health framework. This is an important framework that we should be working within as we try to address issues of gun related violence in the United States.
Much of the discussion around gun control seems to be black and white thinking. Some are suggesting all guns should be illegalized and the second Amendment should be repealed. Others are suggesting that no new gun controls should be put in place, and instead, that more people should carry guns. It seems like the more reasonable viewpoint is somewhere in the middle, where access to certain types of guns should be made much more difficult.
Similarly, there is the discussion about video games. Some people call for banning video games. Others say absolutely not. Dr. Katz seems to come closer to a more reasonable middle ground by looking at access to a specific set of video games, first person shooter games.
I am a big proponent of gaming. I believe we should be using ramification to change many aspects of our society and I hope to write more about some of these ideas later. Games, like guns, are tools. They can be used a lot of different ways.
So, with that, let me get to some of the comments I received on my Facebook wall about Dr. Katz's blog post. Much of the discussion has been around different types of games, some not even video games. I played a lot of Dungeons and Dragons back in the 1970s. At that point, it was paper, pencils, dice and a lot of imagination. Yes, there was violence in the game, but it was a small part of the game. What mattered was creativity, problem solving, and collaboration; some of the twenty-first century skills I've been writing about.
My brother posted a link to a video about a Veterinary Medical Class that took place in Second Life. It is a fascinating video and a great illustration of the positive aspect of video game like activity. One person posted a link to the article, Ten-country comparison suggests there’s little or no link between video games and gun murders. Dr. Katz properly points out that this is a study of video games in general, and not violent video games, or even more specifically first person shooter games.
Yet I'll even go so far as to suggest that there can be some benefit to first person shooter games. Re-enactment of a traumatic event can be an important part of processing the horror, whether it be young kids playing with toy guns after Newtown, or veterans spending time in virtual worlds to learn to cope with PTSD. Perhaps the real question is, what are you getting out of the games you are playing.
This ties back to some of the discussions I've been having at the CT Health Foundation Health Leadership Fellows Program about intent and impact. What are you intending to get out of your games and what impact is it really having?
One intent may be simply to relax and unwind. That is an important thing to seek. The question becomes, is this the most effective way to relax and unwind? Are their other, unintended side effects that are detrimental? Might these detrimental side effects indicate there are other ways to relax and unwind that might be more beneficial?
I also like to come back to Jane McGonigal's TED talks about gaming. What sort of societal change is the gaming having? How is it affecting your resilience; mental, emotional, and social?
For the seventh grade boys playing first person shooter games, what sort of effect is that having? The research Dr. Katz talks about suggests it may not be all that beneficial. So, how do we address this? Do we ban first person shooter games? Do we make it harder for kids to access them? Do we put warning labels on them? Do we train parents, teachers and even doctors about them?
For example, my eleven year old daughter was asked at her latest physical about if she always wore her seat belt, if there were people around her that smoked, and if there were guns in any houses she went to. She was also asked about playing video games.
Now there are some people who have tried to prohibit doctors from asking their patients about gun safety, and I imagine if more doctors start asking about video game safety, that might get a similar response, but that is something that primary care providers interested in dealing with gun violence from a public health perspective could start asking patients about. It would be a simple start, without requiring new legislation. Twelve years ago, the American Academy of Pediatrics came out a Joint Statement on the Impact of Entertainment Violence on Children. As part of releasing that statement they stated they hoped to "encourage greater public and parental awareness of the harms of violent entertainment, and encourage a more honest dialogue about what can be done to enhance the health and well-being of America's children". It sure seems like such a dialog is long overdue.