Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hemlock Hill Farm

Set upon 120 acres of gently sloping hills and increasingly rare open space, Hemlock Hill Farm in Cortlandt Manor is many locals' go-to place to pick up fresh and organic produce, meat, dairy and honey. The DeMaria family that owns
the farm is now working to expand their operations after receiving a Farmland Protection Grant from the New York State Department of Agriculture this summer.

Adhering to the values they grew up with, owner John DeMaria, 78, and his daughter Laura, 30, plan to expand their operations to reach a broader customer base. Having been in the organic food business for decades, the DeMarias see the public’s growing dedication to healthy organic and local foods as a cultural trend to take advantage of.

John learned to farm from his parents who founded Hemlock in 1939. He and his wife Rita have four daughters, Christina, Katie, Lisa and Laura; Laura now helps John run the farm and, in the family tradition, will eventually take over the entire operation.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Big or Small: A Dog Lover's Dilemma

Chris Jones, 44, releases Precious – a Shih Tzu-Pekingese mix – from her leash and lets her scurry off into the dog park in White Plains. Noticing some other dog owners and park-goers around him, he quickly makes it clear that Precious is not his, but his girlfriend’s.

“I’ve always had big dogs,” he said. “In the past, I’ve owned an Akita, Black Lab and a German Sheppard. I just prefer them because I can wrestle with them. You can’t do that with a little dog.”

In the world of dogs, misconceptions – if you can pardon the pun – quite literally run wild. Little dogs evoke images of Yorkshire Terriers, also known as Yorkies, peeking arrogantly from out of the top of a woman’s pocketbook, snipping and cowering as soon as you get too close. Then there is the often annoying Chihuahua that barks and nips relentlessly at one’s ankles, as though it were ten feet tall.

Read More: http://bronxville.patch.com/articles/big-or-small-a-dog-lovers-dilemma

Friday, February 26, 2010

A Letter to the ASPCA

February 26, 2010

Edwin Sayres, President & CEO
Hoyle C. Jones, Chairman
ASPCA Corporate Offices
520 8th Avenue, 7th FloorNew York, NY 10018

Mr. Sayres and Mr. Jones,

I would like to commend the ASPCA for all its work saving animals from cruelty and neglect. I am a monthly donor to your organization and receive regular emails about the work ASPCA is doing to further its mission to promote ethical and kind treatment of animals.

Unfortunately, last year I had mixed experiences with your organization. I called my local ASPCA because of concerns I had for several junk yard dogs that were being kept in a muddy tire repair shop lot. They immediately sent one of their officers to investigate. When I called back in a week I was able to get an update on their findings. According to New York City law the conditions the dogs were living in was not considered inhumane. They had shelter (though it could not be seen from the street) and they had food. It didn’t matter that there were many of them in the small space filled with old cars and tires or that it was dirty. I didn’t appreciate the view of the law and thought perhaps I could do something about it. The first organization that came to mind to contact was the ASPCA. Was I surprised when I called to get information on what I can do as a citizen to change the law and no one was able to assist me? I was even told by one department that they didn’t answer those types of questions.

Last winter I saw four or five kittens wandering about my neighborhood. One little black one had a broken leg. I called the ASPCA to see if they could scoop them up and take them to the pound. Again, I was taken aback when the person who answered the phone told me that they didn’t have the resources to go out looking for stray animals, especially cats that are small creatures. This surprised me because your website states “In New York City, the agency under contract to perform the job of animal control, including the management of stray animals, is the Center for Animal Care and Control, Inc. (CACC). CACC will pick up stray animals and bring them to city shelters.” I thought perhaps this person was confused and didn’t know what they were talking about. I called back two days later and someone else told me the same thing. Still in disbelief I made a third attempt and another much nicer person, apologized and said they can’t do that. They do not come out to the boroughs looking for stray animals. One suggestion made was that I trap the animals myself and drop them off at a shelter.

I understand resources are slim but it is very distressful to watch those kittens grow up only to see two get run over by cars and the others barely surviving in the bitter cold. I am asking you directly as President & CEO and Chairman of the world’s largest animal welfare organization, what can a concerned citizen do to change the laws in New York that says as long as an animal has food and shelter they are well cared for. They do not need any interaction of any kind and can be chained up all day long. Also, what can an individual do to help stray animals in their area if the local ASPCA won’t assist?

I look forward to your reply.

Thank you for your time.


Veronica Hinds

Thursday, July 16, 2009

A Year Behind Bars for Teen Kitten Killer Is Not Enough

Don’t make the mistake of thinking that Cheyenne Cherry, the 17 year-old who stuffed a helpless kitten in a 500 degree oven is a troubled teen. She is a demented human being, just like every other person who finds pleasure in torturing an animal. It is long recognized that people who torture animals also perform acts of violence against humans such as child abuse, spousal abuse and elder abuse. Torturing animals is a sort of “rehearsal” for them before they move on to bigger prey, humans. In the 1970’s the FBI discovered that many serial killers killed or tortured animals as children and the American Psychiatric Association considers animal cruelty one of the diagnostic criteria of conduct disorder. In a nutshell, animal torturers are sick, deranged individuals.

Cherry pleaded guilty to the crime at the Bronx Supreme Court on Wednesday. As she exited the courtroom she passed a row of animal rights activist. Cherry grinned at them, stuck out her tongue and yelled, “It’s dead bitch.” Does this sound like a normal human being to you?

On May 6th, Cherry and a 14 year-old friend broke into her ex-roommate’s apartment and thrashed the place. They slashed furniture, unscrewed light bulbs and threw bleach on the walls. Then, in an utmost display of animal cruelty, threw the woman’s kitten, Tiger Lily in the oven and cranked up the temperature. The two fled the apartment so they wouldn’t hear the tiny creature cries or scratches against the oven’s door. When arrested and questioned by police, Cherry announced, “I hate cats.” She also referred to the horrific act as “just a joke.”

Last year Cherry and her boyfriend were arrested for using a BB gun to dog nap a teacup Yorkie. She was also arrested for robbing a man of his iPod at gunpoint.

Cherry pleased guilty to two charges in a six-count indictment. She waived her right to appeal and agreed not to keep a pet for three years. She will spend a year behind bars. This is not enough. The fact that Cherry can keep a pet after three years is horrendous. Her name should be in the database of every animal adoption agency so she could never adopt a pet. In fact, she should not even be allowed to go to the zoo. Animal cruelty needs to be treated as a serious crime. Until then, these perpetrators will continue to torment innocent creatures.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

No Help For Strays

Last week I encountered a grey kitten with an injured hind leg and later that afternoon I saw two other kittens playing. I concluded that a stray cat in the area had babies and now those babies are up and about. I figured the best thing to do would be to contact The Animal Care and Control of New York City (AC&C) and have them come by and take the kittens away.

To my surprise and dismay getting help for these kittens has become a major undertaking. I was left on hold for twenty minutes, only to be informed by the person who answered that this is not a service AC&C provide, even though it says that on their website. They will only come out if the animals are in a confined location. Other than that, I will have to trap the animals and bring them in myself. Shocked, I asked “are they then just allowed to wander about and multiply?” She told me yes. She also gruffly explained that they have limited resources and therefore cannot go wandering about a neighborhood looking for stray animals, especially cats, because they are small creatures and are too hard to find.

Confused, I hung up and dialed 311 and was redirected back to AC&C. When I explained that I already spoke to AC&C and they cannot help, the operator insisted that they are the only agency designated to provide that service. In essence, I was informed that there is no other city agency that collects stray animals.

At first I was angry and outraged that a city agency designed for the welfare of animals could not perform the basic function of animal control. Then I realized that this is just the unfortunate state of our animal welfare system. They are operating on a limited budget and resources are scarce.

I then contacted the Humane Society of New York and asked them for help. The woman who answered the phone patiently and sadly reiterated what I stated above. She suggested I log on to the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC’s Animals’ website and on there I will find a group called NYC Feral Cat Initiative. She explained that they have experience in dealing with such matters and may be able to assist me. I did as she suggested and sent them an email requesting their assistance.

It is unfortunate that the City has no choice but to allow neighborhoods to be at risk of being overrun with stray animals. Believe it or not, over population of stray animals is a real threat. A stray cat can have up to 3 litters a year with an average of 4 to 5 kittens. A cat can become pregnant at five to nine months of age. It is easy to see how a problem can develop.

These poor animals are hungry and most likely carry diseases. They are unprotected against extreme weather conditions, run the risk of being run over by cars and injured in fights with other animals. Though rare, they could attack a human if they are rabid or if they feel threaten or trapped. A neighborhood overrun with feral cats or dogs is not a pleasant living environment.

It goes to show how desperately in need of funds animal welfare groups are. And to think weeks ago money Leona Helmsley designated for animals in her will was redirected to areas not specified in her will. Only a few thousands dollars of her estate went to certain groups such as the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animas and several groups that train guide dogs for the blind. Can you imagine what an impact her donation could have had? For instance, perhaps the AC&C could have come out and rescue the kittens. Maybe they would be able to investigate more cases of animal abuse.

Fortunately, NYC Feral Cat Initiative has a Trap-Neuter-Return program which helps keep the population of stray cats under control. They round up feral cats, spade or neuter them and then release them back into the area where they were found. It’s not a perfect solution, but it helps.

As for the three kittens in my neighborhood, I haven’t seen them in a week. I try to be optimistic and think perhaps someone else already captured them and took them to the shelter. Most likely, they relocated to another area, got run over by a vehicle or died in some other way.

The next time you make a donation, please consider giving to an animal welfare groups like the ASPCA or the Humane Society of New York. It will help to make a difference in the lives of animals and humans.

Friday, May 1, 2009

What is Humane?

Along the path that I take to the Express Bus in the mornings is a tire repair shop. Right next to it is a gated section with a dirt floor that has an old truck, old tires and car parts and basically a lot of junk. Whenever I passed by I will see two dogs. Whether it was cold, warm, sunny or raining, they were there. Immediately I decided that I should contact the ASPCA. It wasn’t that they looked skinny or physically abused in any way, it just seemed inappropriate for them to be living in such unsanitary conditions. I asked someone what they thoughts were about this and was simply told that these are junk yard dogs and that is how they lived. Their job was to guard the junk. I tried to accept that fact until one dreadfully rainy evening I was walking home and passed them sitting by the gate in the rain. They looked miserable and appeared too unhappy to bark or even to try and guard the vicinity. At that point I decided that I should do something.

Taking note of the name of the establishment and its exact location, the next day I contacted the ASPCA. The woman on the line told me that they will investigate it. For a few days I didn’t see the dogs and thought to myself that the ASPCA probably removed them. Then one morning as I headed to work, I saw one of them with several puppies around her.

As soon as I got on the bus I contacted the ASPCA and followed up on my complaint. I was surprised that the person remembered that I had called before. She told me that they closed the case on that complaint. She said even though the area is unsanitary, when the worker went there, the area was swept. Also, there is a shelter invisible from the street, way in the back behind the truck. There are many dogs there she said, but they were a healthy weight, had water and sufficient shelter and so therefore their living condition were deemed adequate. I thought well maybe I misjudged the situation. After all, if the ASPCA say their living environment is fine, then maybe it is. However, days later I passed by again and saw them sitting on a muddy wet ground, staring mournfully at me behind the locked gate.

I started to think what is considered a humane living condition for a dog? According to the ASPCA’s website in New York State, “a dog is considered adequately cared for when it has water, food, minimal shelter such as a basic dog house and a chain that is at least five feet (1.5m) in length. The law allows the dog to be left outdoors all the time even in freezing or soaring temperatures with minimal human contact.” I was horrified. At least now I realize that my interpretation was correct but the ASPCA can only act within the confines of the law.

Now my goal is to find out what can be done about such a law. I’m sure there are many who see nothing wrong with this. After all why would a dog need a neat comfortable place to live and human contact? Perhaps they themselves at one time had gotten a cute little puppy. They played with it everyday and showed it lots of attention. Then eventually, they got bored with it, chained it outside and forgot about it. Who cares? It is just a dog.

I know there are many others who feel the exact opposite. Perhaps you know what steps individuals can take to make the dog law in New York State stricter. My other question is what are the animal organizations doing about this? Stay tuned.

In the meantime to learn how to spot animal cruelty go to http://www.aspca.org/fight-animal-cruelty/how-to-recognize-cruelty.html.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Not Man's Best Friend

I am disappointed to learn that only $1million out of the $136million of the funds donated to charities through Leona Helmsley’s charitable trust went to animal groups. It seems whenever a huge sum of money is left to animal groups, the person leaving the money is deemed insane or their intentions questioned and the money is quickly redirected towards other causes. An example of this is when tobacco heiress, Doris Duke, left money to support the arts and for the prevention of cruelty to animas and children, the trustees decided since she said “animals or children” not “animals and children,” to just give the money to children.

In 2003, Mrs. Helmsley drafted a mission statement to establish goals for how her multimillion dollar trust would disburse her assets after her death. She wanted the money to go towards helping indigent people and to provide care for dogs. A year later she deleted the first goal and devoted the trust primarily to the welfare of dogs, but added “and other such charitable activities as the trustees shall determine.” In February, judge, Troy K. Webber of Surrogate’s Court in Manhattan ruled, “the trustees may apply trust funds for such charitable purposes and in such amounts as they may, in their sole discretion, determine.”

It is wonderful that money went towards hospitals, who got a huge chunk, programs for homeless individuals and poverty, but only a mere million was distributed among ten different animal charities which include the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animas and several groups that train guide dogs for the blind. This is clearly not what Mrs. Helmsley intended. I think she would be happier if the money was divided evenly.

Overall, the animal welfare sector is underfunded. Hundreds of animals are unitized everyday at shelters due to lack of resources. Would it not be great if we could prolong the lives of these animals, therefore giving them a greater chance of being adopted and having a good life? Also, wildlife preservation groups play a crucial role in protecting life on Earth through the preservation of plants, animals and the natural communities that sustain their existence. They help to ensure that many species of life will be around for our grandchildren to see and they won’t have to just read about them in books, like they read about the dinosaurs. A few groups who can use the money to make a tremendous impact are the Wildlife Conservation Society, who manages the world’s largest system of urban wildlife parks led by their flagship the Bronx Zoo, the World Wildlife Fund, who is working hard to save the polar bears and the National Wildlife Federation.

What we need to realize is that our survival as humans are closely linked to the survival of other life forms on Earth. To ignore that fact and to deny compassion for those of the animal kingdom is counterproductive to our survival as a speicies.