Marius: A Senseless Killing

It is with a very heavy heart that I write this blog post. By now most of you have heard of Marius, the young giraffe that was needlessly “euthanized” at the Copenhagen Zoo in Demark.

Marius the giraffe

Picture taken on Febuary 7, 2014 shows a perfectly healthy young giraffe named Marius who was shot dead and autopsied in the presence of visitors to the gardens at Copenhagen zoo on Febuary 9, 2014 despite an online petition to save it signed by thousands of animal lovers. Marius, an 18-month-old giraffe, was put down early on Sunday, zoo spokesman Tobias Stenbaek Bro confirmed. AFP PHOTO

I say “euthanized” in quotations because their idea of euthanasia is not what I think of as euthanasia, where the animal is given a cocktail of sedative and sodium pentobarbital so that it passes peacefully. Of that euthanasia, sadly, I am all too familiar in having had to say goodbye to my own precious dogs when it came their time. But the “euthanasia” at the Copenhagen Zoo was barbaric: Marius was lured with his favorite treat – rye bread – and then just as he was enjoying the bread, the “vet” SHOT HIM IN THE HEAD!

And this was all carried out in public, with a viewing audience. But it gets worse. It’s hard to think that it could get any worse but what happened next is off the charts atrocious. After Marius lie there dead, the zookeepers performed a necropsy and then proceeded to cut him up into pieces and fed him to the lions. Mind you, all of this taking place in front of a cast of onlookers, including children. Children witnessing this horrific act. Oh, how they will have to endure reliving this ghastly incident over and over in their young minds. I’m sure the adults will have nightmares as well.

I am so appalled and so angered. What has my blood boiling all the more is listening to Bengt Holst, director of research and conservation at Copenhagen Zoo, explain the reason that Marius was killed. According to Holst in a CNN interview, Marius was “a surplus to the population and as being part of a breeding program you always have to make the population as sound as possible.” He went on to explain that once bred, they evaluate the genes of the giraffes and match that to the population. In other words, the zoo didn’t have room to accommodate Marius’ genetic makeup. And to sterilize him would still present the problem of a surplus in the zoo’s giraffe population. They didn’t have adequate space to stave off inbreeding.

But why kill Marius? Couldn’t he have gone someplace else? Well, the actual answer is yes, he could’ve. There were other zoos and wildlife sanctuaries that offered to take the healthy and vibrant Marius, but Holst claims that those places didn’t meet their strict protocols and that the Copenhagen Zoo would not send Marius to an institution with “lesser standards of welfare.”

WHAT?? Oh, let me understand this: the Copenhagen Zoo’s idea of a high standard of welfare is to shoot Marius in the head and systematically butcher him in front of zoo attendees. THAT’S high operating standards? Jesus.

As far as the method of destruction, why not a humane method of euthanasia? Because, Holst rationalizes, the lethal injection would have contaminated a large amount of “perfectly good meat” and that was not acceptable. And then at some point this man goes on to say that death is a natural part of life. BUT MURDER IS NOT NATURAL!!

What’s most disturbing to me is this man’s utter lack of empathy and compassion. He claims his zoo is an ethical organization, doing what’s best for the animals, and that the animals have a good life while they’re alive. I guess that means a good life until someone decides to shoot them in the head!

Oh my God, I’m just so angry. Because it wasn’t just this man who made the decision. The zoo officials were all onboard with the decision, a decision which was made after numerous petitions were put forth in an effort to save Marius’ life.

Marius the giraffe and friends

Marius, an 18-month-old giraffe, was killed at Copenhagen zoo on Sunday as part of a programme to prevent inbreeding. Photograph: Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

I’m against zoos in the first place, but the fact remains they do exist. And if we are forced to live in a world where animals are kept in captivity for purposes of profit and entertainment, then there has to be a way to keep the animals safe. But that’s simply impossible. Even though there are governing bodies and oversight committees that are supposed to do just that. For example, state-run Racing Commissions are supposed to police the race tracks and the trainers to ensure that the race horses and greyhounds are being treated humanely, yet we hear horror stories all too often about the outright abuse and neglect that goes on in the industry. We hear the stories of zookeepers who beat the animals with sticks. There was a case in my own community in which efforts by animal rights advocates to block the opening of an aquarium were unsuccessful. The alarm bells were sounding when it was discovered that the owners of this new aquarium are currently facing charges in other states where they have aquariums; charges of illegally obtaining wildlife, improper housing, animal neglect and cruelty, along with conspiracy and obstruction of justice. The result was an oversight committee set in place to ensure the proper handling, housing and treatment of animals. Now I witnessed firsthand improper housing on a recent visit to the aquarium when a crab killed a starfish right in front of the crowd. We yelled for help but by the time the aquarium personnel got there, it was too late and the starfish was dead. Now how could this even happen, when all of the aquarium employees are supposed to be degreed marine biologists? Wouldn’t degreed marine biologists know that crabs and starfish shouldn’t be housed together? At the request of PETA, I went back a few days later to see if they had made changes to the housing situation and they had; crabs were no longer being kept in the same tanks as the starfish. But I’ve digressed a bit here and that’s a story for another time. My point being that even with supposed checks and balances in place to ensure the safety and humane treatment of animals in captivity, abuse, neglect and ignorance still prevail.

My heart breaks for Marius…and for all the animals kept against their will in zoos around the world. The outrage over Marius’ senseless killing and the media attention it is now getting is bringing an awareness to the forefront. But will it be enough? Or will it just be another headline that vanishes when the next big story hits?

Marius the giraffe

Marius, a most gentle creature

We must do all we can to bring forth the understanding that all animals are sentient beings, and that they all have souls and are deserving of our reverence, compassion and love. And it must be taught that as sentient beings, animals experience feelings and emotions. No doubt the other giraffes with which Marius shared time and space are grieving this unconscionable loss.

With regard to Marius, I know I’m supposed to be more enlightened at this stage, and sometimes I am. However, this shocking act of a pointless killing has left me incensed. And seeing video (taken from the Copenhagen Zoo’s surveillance cameras) of Marius in his final moments, this magnificent and gentle animal who had his whole life ahead of him, has left me with a heavy and vengeful heart. The only solace comes from knowing that Marius is in a much better place now, a place where there is no evil, no cruelty, only love. You are one with God now, sweet Marius. May your death be not in vain.

A Tribute to My Precious Foster Hannah


Hannah the greyhound saluki mixHannah came to me as a foster dog. Her back story is mostly unknown as she was found in a ditch with a litter of puppies. Her early years were obviously unpleasant, and maybe even cruel.

She came to me from her present owner who was in a desperate situation and needed a place for Hannah to stay. And stay with me she did, for the last two years.

Hannah was an incredibly sweet dog with the gentlest of souls. She was part  Headshot of Hannah the greyhound saluki mixGreyhound, part Saluki. The Saluki heritage gave her a very reserved demeanor and one that was fairly expressionless. What I mean by that is the expression on her face NEVER changed! She held the same expression always –and some folks thought she looked a little melancholy. I thought so at first too, until I got to know Hannah. Her expressions came through her body, not her face. I knew she was excited not by the look on her face but by the thump of her tail against the couch cushion when I came in the room. I knew she was having fun, not by her facial expression but by the way she moved, the way she jumped from bed to bed, leap-frogging and bed-hopping. Her ears would stand straight out and she’d turn and look up at me from her landing position, as she considered pouncing again. I knew she was content when she would lay in the sun, rolling in the grass, from side to side, over and back, and finally come to rest on her back, her legs stretched out and her front paws poised like a praying mantis.

Everyone who met Hannah instantly feel in love with her. She was just so sweet, so calm and so mellow. Hannah liked mellow. When the other dogs started to get boisterous or rowdy in the living room, she would just pick up and retreat back to the bedroom and hang out there until things quieted down.

When Hannah first came to me she was obviously feeling displaced and probably a bit confused, having left the stable home that she’d known for several years. She didn’t want to eat the first few meals. That’s quite normal when a change occurs in a dog’s environment. But she needed to eat! So I would bring her bowl over and hand-feed her. Goopy gobs of kibble mixed with mushy canned food. It was a messy job but at least she ate everything. And this went on for awhile, day after day of hand-feeding, when I finally realized, she’s playing me! She’s just a diva and wanted to be hand-fed all the time. Silly girl.

hannah the blue greyhound saluki mix

When she started eating on her own, she liked to eat in private. She didn’t like any distractions or any movements around while she was eating so she took her meals in my bedroom, usually on top of my bed. She was such a princess!

But then she stopped eating. Wouldn’t eat anything. At all. I took her to my vet and she was diagnosed as heading into kidney failure. There’s no recovery from kidney failure so she was on borrowed time. I was told it could be a few weeks or a few months. That was two weeks ago.

After her 4-day stay in the hospital getting pumped with IV fluids she came back home and was doing fabulous! I was so happy. She was back to her old self. Trotting in the yard, rolling in the grass, bed-jumping. And she would get especially excited at treat time. But she was still being very finicky with the food. I had to get really creative with meal planning just so she would get something into her belly. And she went back to the Diva mode and I would hand-feed her meatballs, chicken nuggets, ham, bread, rigatoni noodles with sauce and whatever else she would eat to keep her strength up. I ended up throwing a lot of stuff out. Surely she’ll eat tuna-fish, right? What dog doesn’t like tuna fish? Hannah doesn’t. She ate oatmeal one day and I thought, Great! Oatmeal is good for her. So I made a big pot of it. She never ate oatmeal after that first time. One day she’d eat something and the next day she decided she didn’t like it. I kinda think she went back to playing me, but I was happy to oblige.

She had lost a lot of weight and was continuing to lose weight, but again, she seemed like she had really turned a corner. Until Tuesday. Monday she didn’t eat anything at all. And believe me, I tried EVERYTHING! She would take food in her mouth but spit it right back out.  Tuesday, same thing. Wouldn’t eat at all. She was getting weaker. Then she suddenly couldn’t sit still, like she couldn’t get comfortable. She finally settled down, as we all did for the night.

On Wednesday morning when I got up she was unresponsive. Breathing, but unresponsive. I rushed her to the vet and the clinic staff whisked her back to a room. The vet came out a short while later and said that her blood pressure was so low they couldn’t even get a reading. They had her on oxygen and did a blood draw, but her blood was sludgy and coagulating. The vet wanted to see what the blood work looked like because she thought it might not be the kidneys. When the results came back it wasn’t good. She came out with the paperwork, a paper with a lot of red ink, indicating Hannah’s levels that were abnormal — so many of her levels were abnormal and not just a little abnormal but way out of normal range. At this point it was obvious that something else was going on inside Hannah and there was just no coming back from it.

It was time. So I had to say goodbye and release sweet Hannah to be with all my other babies up at the Rainbow Bridge. It was heartbreaking to see her in the condition she was, especially when just the day before she was bouncing around.

Hannah was a very special girl who left paw prints on the hearts of all who met her. I’m very grateful to have had these last two years with her.

                              Godspeed Hannah!                                                        

I know you’re up there rolling in green meadows and basking in the warm sunlight. Until we meet again, feel my love and know that we miss your sweet spirit.   Hannah walking

UPDATE 1/24/14:  I had just come into the house from doing poop-duty outside and as I was about to slip back into my house shoes I noticed something white on the inside of my left shoe. When I picked it up, there lie a little white feather. I have to think that was Hannah stopping by to let me know she got her angel wings!

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