From fur to fins, Lisa Blanck covers animal issues

The Trail From Dust To Diamonds, Laredo’s Story

The Trail From Dust To Diamonds, Laredo’s Story


My friend, Erica Kutzing, is VP of Strong Island Animal Rescue League, and when it comes to speaking for the voiceless, she is passionate, direct and eloquent.  Always seeing the diamonds in the rough, always giving them the time they need to reveal their inner glow.  No amount of ground-in dirt, averted eyes, lumps or bumps, doggy breath nor dire medical diagnoses will deter Erica when she has her heart stolen by an animal in need.  She hears the words “hospice case” and says yes. She knows her heart will break, and she does it anyway.

Laredo2Recently, a tan and white mix from Texas, with painfully cropped ears and a cancerous lump distending from his chest, got his golden ticket.  Like many in Rescue whose families are extended by unplanned additions, Erica’s Laredo was simply waiting for her to find him.  With the help of SNARR, Special Needs Animal Rescue & Rehabilitation Northeast, Laredo found his soulmate.

When Erica put her pen to paper about Laredo, her words struck a chord in me and with many others in Rescue.  The ones who share her disgust with and intolerance for any so-called human who not only purposely ignores but contributes to the suffering of the voiceless.  While you and I, and Erica, and the members of Strong Island, would go without a meal to ensure that our pets get fed, there are far too many who would not do the same.  Who do not seek medical assistance for their animals, and ignore their obvious distress.  Who do not make them part of a family. but banish them, chained to a post, in an empty, dusty yard.

If Laredo could talk, I’m sure he’d consider himself one lucky dog.  Here are Erica’s words about her new furchild.

An open letter to Laredo’s “owner”,

Let me start off by saying we are two completely different people. We are cut from different cloths and I couldn’t be happier about that. We will likely never see eye to eye on how to properly care for a dog. While you decide to isolate, neglect, abuse, and ignore your dogs, I prefer to include them as a part of my family. 

I don’t know if your parents didn’t hug you enough but there is no excuse for the suffering you’ve caused. While this dog could have had a lifetime of memories and love, he had to wait until this year to see that there is a bright side. There is a light at the end of a tunnel that was consumed with very dark days.

This dog was never yours. I will never share the ownership title with you as you’ve never earned it. When you looked out of your window every single day and saw a dog with so much potential rot at the end of a heavy chain, it was in those moments that you were stripped of any other title than monster.

Let me be clear, he is my dog. And as fate always works in mysterious ways, he’s always been my dog. We just hadn’t had the chance to meet yet.

While you slept inside, my dog slept in the dirt.
While you covered yourself in a blanket on cold nights, my dog shivered.
While you sought cover from the hot Texas sun, my dog baked in the heat.
And when you developed a cold or the flu and received medical care, my dog developed cancer and you just let it grow.

Ignorance exists but this was far more than that. This isn’t a cultural difference. This was abuse. Anyone with a brain knows better. If you are living and breathing, YOU KNOW BETTER. And you did nothing to change his life.

Rescuers did. Rescuers were the first piece of compassion my dog ever experienced. And the day they took him off of your property was the first day of my dogs life.
It hasn’t been easy, taking in my dog and helping him recover from what you’ve done to him. Everyday hasn’t been perfect but everyday has been worth it. I’ve watched him heal his internal wounds caused by a lifetime of being forgotten.
I’ve watched a beautiful and sweet dog emerge from a hardened shell.

laredo3Did you know he likes to play? Did you know he loves to cuddle? So much of who he is was kept tucked away deep inside of him. He had no outlet to show you who he truly was. You robbed him of that.

Your day will come when you will be judged. Your day will come when you meet whatever god you believe in and you are critiqued for the way you chose to live your life and how you treated others. That’s when the karma for what you tried to do to my dog will take affect.

My dog and I are just fine. We will continue to grow together.
You didn’t win. You didn’t destroy my dog beyond repair. And much to my gratitude but not surprise, he forgives people. For all he’s been through he holds no grudges. And not even I will waste my energy to hold a grudge towards a person who doesn’t deserve a second thought.

I know while he stood there day in and day out he dreamed of a life like this. So every single day I will work my hardest to make MY dogs life everything he imagined.
You lose, sir. We are the winners, here.

Erica and Laredo Kutzing



Welcome to the Kutzing family, Laredo.  They’ve been waiting for you.


You may have found a baby bird who looks injured, or perhaps a turtle hit by a car.  You can’t just walk away, but you don’t know where to turn.  Well, there’s a downloadable iPhone and Android app and a website who provide the resources to contact in wildlife emergencies like these.

It’s called Animal Help Now, and it enables you to get in touch with a group or organization in your area who can direct you on how to proceed.  All you have to do is enter your address in the box on top, and then click on the button for the type of emergency – Wildlife EmergencyWildlife Conflict or Other Animal Issue.  A drop-down menu even breaks it down into the species you’re looking to help, such as skunk, reptile or bird.  There’s also a map that pinpoints details of where the registered helpers are located.

Injured pigeon

The website states right up front that it may not be the best idea for you to handle a wild animal, and not to handle one who appears sick, or is behaving abnormally.  To always wear gloves in handling wildlife.  And to definitely be aware of laws regarding interaction and transport of wild animals.  The site also lists only those wildlife control operations who employ humane methods, and suggest that you,

“Always inform any wildlife control operation you work with that you are interested only in humane solutions for your conflict.”

They stress that in their experience, if it’s a small animal and it appears uninjured, reuniting them with their parent is the best approach.

AHN assist with many thousands of animal emergencies each year.  They list some amazing suggestions here for people who find baby owls, baby bobcats, baby squirrels, etc.  For example, if you find a baby squirrel and it’s bleeding or is covered in fly eggs, it should be taken to an experienced wildlife rehabilitator.  But if it appears uninjured and is smaller than 6″, it may just have been separated from its mom or fallen from a tree, and the steps to reunite them are listed on the site.  Their Youtube video also walks you through the steps to get help.

If you’re an experienced animal welfare organization who uses humane methods, AHN would love to hear from you to add you to their contact list.  Call (303) 543-0755 or email

Originally appeared in Lady Freethinker!



Originally published in Lady Freethinker!

The bulldozers have roared onto what is usually a peaceful oasis of beauty.  The National Butterfly Center in Mission, Texas, stands to lose over 70% of their 100 acres of private conservation land to construction of a wall separating Mexico from the United States.

Red Admiral on Mexican Love Vine at National Butterfly Center. Courtesy, NBC

The Center, located in Texas’ Lower Rio Grande Valley, is the ideal spot for more than 300 species of butterflies.  It is open year-round, drawing multitudes of visitors, hobbyists and schoolkids.  The Center is a project of the nonprofit North American Butterfly Association.  In 2014, an ordinance by the Mission city council established the conservation area, which included,


‘Penalties for capturing, taking or killing wild, free-flying butterflies or any stage of their life cycle.’

The Center collaborates with the National Park Service in protecting the butterflies. U.S. Fish & Wildlife are also partners; in 2011 they planted 12,000 plugs of rare grasses and endangered wildflowers.  Protected species like the Texas Tortoise, 400 varieties of birds and the endangered Monarch butterfly, who migrates through the Valley, all coexist in this designated conservation area.

NBC officials fear that construction of the border wall through this delicate ecosystem will negatively impact all area flora and fauna.  In addition, the financial hit to the area will be tremendous, should the sanctuary be cut to pieces — environmental tourism contributes more than $450 million to Hidalgo and Starr counties.

Border Patrol blocking National Butterfly Center land, Courtesy, NBC

Surveyor stakes, along with chainsaws and heavy equipment, first appeared on the property in July 2017, without notice or permission from property owners, and delineated the ‘clearing zone’ where the work would begin.  As recently as December, 2018, U.S. Customs and Border Protection assured concerned staff that the wall would not impede access to the Center and that any construction would not actually begin until February or March.  On February 3, 2019, again without notice and less than 60 days after initial assurances from the government, the first excavators have rolled in.

NBC staffers have been informed that they will no longer have access to their own land, south of the levee, where six miles of wall is planned to be erected.   Seventy percent of the National Butterfly Center lies south of that levee.  Per Center officials, 12 Border Patrol agents arrived this week, informing them ‘they were there to advance their client’s agenda.‘  NBC were also notified that the Mission Police Department,

‘Have orders to prohibit anyone from stepping foot on the levee, which sits on our private property.’

Monarchs at National Butterfly Center, Courtesy.

In the past, construction of a barrier between the U.S. and Mexico resulted in land being appropriated by the U.S. government and Department of Homeland Security, many times without proper compensation.  Land was taken without identifying the rightful owners.  Varying amounts of payment were made, with the largest sums usually awarded to wealthier landowners who could afford to pay for better legal representation.

Evidence has shown that DHS abused their power in many of these cases.  If the owners refused to sell, the US government would simply take the property, filing hundreds of eminent domain lawsuits to take thousands of acres of land in the border states of Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas.  In 2017, money was appropriated by the Senate for some sort of barrier to be constructed in the area, to the tune of $1.6 billion.  But that is for construction, not for property owner compensation.

The Center will be filing further restraining orders to block construction of the wall system through their land.  A number of groups and individuals are currently on site at the Center, including the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas and the Society of Native Nations.  They have united in protest against the advancement of equipment onto this privately owned conservation area.  A fundraiserhas been established to help with legal expenses in this fight.

According to a 2018 study, the Western monarch butterfly population in California has dropped by 86% in just one year.  Butterflies have migratory patterns, and any sort of disruption in their lives, such as bulldozing their habitat, might very well push the species off the cliff entirely.

First Nations arrive to protest gov’t bulldozers, Courtesy National Butterfly Center

The immediacy of the situation speaks volumes to the ‘butterfly effect’ of chaos theory.  When a butterfly flaps its wings, the repercussions are felt around the world.  The ripple effect of destroying the habitat of hundreds of butterflies, and other species who dwell in this region, may well be experienced for years to come.

If you’d like more information on the events unfolding at the National Butterfly Center, contact 956-583-5400 or click here.



Originally published in Lady Freethinker!

The New Mexico Senate approved a bill to determine the best locations to construct a series of underpasses and overpasses — or “wildlife corridors”.  The aim is to decrease the number of animal and human fatalities from car crashes and provide safe passage for animals throughout the state.

Sponsored by Senate Majority Whip Mimi Stewart, the $500,000 appropriation for SB228 is an asset to New Mexico’s migrating wildlife, as well as anyone on the road. Sen. Jeff Steinborn, D-Las Cruces, said,

“It’s a win-win situation for public safety because there are thousands of incidents of humans hitting wildlife and some people die from that.”


Sheep on the road, Photo by Amelie Lachapelle from Pexels


According to the D.O.T, past construction projects have used deterrents to stop animals from crossing in areas where they risk being hit. Though these measures did succeed somewhat, more than $12 million dollars in property damage still arose between 2002 and 2016.

Collisions with large mammals such as elk, deer, bear, pronghorn sheep, and cougars are increasing, with an almost $20 million price tag in 2016. According to New Mexico Defenders of Wildlife, these mammals account for 75% of all animal-involved crashes, with the majority caused by deer and elk.

As it reads, the study will,

“Identify priority wildlife corridors projects by specifying locations, projects and actions needed to preserve long-term habitat corridors for wildlife.”

The study will not reroute current migratory paths for these mammals but will incorporate them into the plan. According to the D.O.T., animal-involved crashes occur in urban and rural areas, so both areas will be part of the study.

With annual property damage from these crashes estimated to be one billion dollars, other states have already developed safe passageways for local wildlife.  Those states include ColoradoWyoming, and Arizona. With Conservation Florida leading the way, the state is also working to create safe, natural, wildlife corridors to protect the Florida black bear and endangered Florida panther.

Sixty-four percent of New Mexico voters support conserving wildlife migration corridors.  This bill, which is open for public comment, now heads to the New Mexico House for further evaluation and discussion.



Originally appeared in Lady Freethinker!

When young Ryder Kuhlman thought about what he wanted for his tenth birthday this year, he looked around his room in Volusia County, Florida and ‘decided he had enough stuff’.  Ryder tells Lady Freethinker,

“I didn’t need any toys for my birthday, so I decided to help out some animals.”

Ryder approached his mom, Rhonda Kuhlman, with an idea.  Instead of birthday gifts, he wanted everyone to help the animals at his local shelter.  Rhonda was impressed by his gesture, but not surprised.  She tells us,  “He’s got a really big heart, and loves animals.”  When we asked Ryder what he wants to be when he grows up, he said, “I want to work in a zoo and help out.”

“I thought I could help out by getting dog food, towels, stuff like that,” Ryder explained.

So the Kuhlman’s called the shelter and asked what was on their wish list:

  • Blankets for the cages
  • Old towels for bathing
  • Cat food
  • Dog food
  • Little toys for the cats
  • Peanut butter, to hide the medicine for the animals

Ryder Kuhlman's birthday wish list

Then Ryder created invitations, which specified “no presents please” but included the shelter’s suggested wish list, adding,

“Help me help the Humane Society and all of their furry friends.”

He sent them to the people on his birthday invite list, including friends and family. His mom helped him by extending Ryder’s circle of love to include her workplace.

Donations! Courtesy, Rhonda Kuhlman

Ryder’s birthday donations to Halifax Humane Society, Courtesy, Rhonda Kuhlman Ryder, who has two pets of his own, a poodle mix and a bearded dragon, was thrilled with the response, as was Halifax Humane.  The Kuhlmans took the truckload of donations. Halifax said it was ‘the largest birthday donation they’d ever seen!”  The day of the drop-off, Ryder got to interact with some of the animals and shelter staff, who said,

“What a generous thing to do for our community’s animals! Ryder also donated $100 in cash for the animals. Ryder YOU ROCK! ”

Just like Ryder, you too can make an impact at your local shelter.  Every rescue, every shelter, has their own wish list.  Give them a call or click on their Facebook or webpage link.

Ryder & HHS Staff

We asked Ryder what he wants to teach people about shelter animals and if he had any advice for adopters. Ryder told us, “They have to take good care of the animals, give them time, and make sure they’re ready to take them home.”

As Ryder’s t-shirt says, ‘rescued is my favorite breed’.  Wise beyond his years, Ryder proved that everyone can make a difference in the lives of animals, no matter how old you are. All it takes is listening to the message from your heart.



A popular South Florida vacation spot is stepping up their environmental stewardship.  City commissioners in Key West just approved the first step toward a city-wide ban on the use of sunscreens containing two substances — oxybenzone and octinoxate — proven harmful to coral reefs.

In addition to being a beautiful home for sea creatures, coral is a living organism.  Among other environmental hazards, oxybenzone and octinoxate have been shown to decrease the reefs’ defense against bleaching.  Coral bleaching occurs when corals get stressed.  They become translucent, or ‘bleached’, and lose their stunning colors.  The colors come from marine algae, which provide the coral with food.  When stressed, the coral expel the algae and subsequently starve to death.

Application of products containing oxybenzone to your skin and than entering water near the reef, in addition to causing bleaching, also damages the corals’ DNA, blocks reproduction and produces sick offspring.  This means that coral populations would be deformed and toxic, and could eventually die off.

The tiny amount of oxybenzone that can severely damage a reef will shock you.  According to a study published in 2015,

 ‘Serious damage to corals by oxybenzone can start with concentrations as low as the equivalent of one drop of water in six-and-a-half Olympic-sized swimming pools.’

Photo by David Clode on Unsplash

Banning reef-damaging chemicals is an idea that’s picking up steam.  Last year, Hawaii banned the sale or distribution of sunscreens containing oxybenzone and octinoxate, beginning in 2021.  Other vacation spots, including the Western Pacific nation of Palau, have also banned many kinds of sunscreen.  Sunscreen manufacturers are arguing against the bans, saying the sunscreens prevent cancer and that “at this moment, research on sunscreens’ effects on coral is limited.”  But bans should incite manufacturers to review ingredients and undertake product research to meet changing consumer demands.

One Key West commissioner says people could still get a prescription from a doctor for sunscreens that contain the banned ingredients. However, you may choose to simply avoid ones that contains octinoxate; when it penetrates your skin, it has been shown to lead to increased toxicity levels in your body.

Better choices might be products containing zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, or simply wearing protective clothing.  You can find some skin and reef-safe product suggestions here.

Fifty people spoke out about the proposal at the Key West commission meeting, including school children, boat captains and dermatologists.

Selling Animals From Puppy/Kitten Mills In British Pet Stores Is Now Illegal

Selling Animals From Puppy/Kitten Mills In British Pet Stores Is Now Illegal

After a whopping 95 percent of public comments voiced support for ending the sale of puppies and kittens in pet stores, the British government confirmed that it will roll out the legislation in 2019.  Anyone looking to purchase a kitten or puppy under six months old must get one from either a rescue shelter or directly from a private breeder.

From the time the Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) took the first public comment to the roll-out of the new law, it took just five months to get the legislation confirmed.  Animal Welfare Minister David Rutley hailed the campaign, entitled “Lucy’s Law“, saying in part,

“We promote responsible pet ownership in our welfare codes and I urge fellow animal lovers to consider the idea of re-homing a dog from the many wonderful organizations across the country.”

Britain’s newest ban comes on the heels of previous legislation rolled out in October 2018, which blocked dogs and cats under eight weeks old from being sold by licensed dealers.

Lucy’s Law was founded by Dr. Marc Abraham, a veterinarian in Brighton, after the 2016 death of Lucy, a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. Her rescue from a puppy farm brought much-needed attention to the horrific neglect suffered by animals in such places.  Lucy exhibited debilitating health issues such as fused hips, a curved spine and malnutrition.  Through his submission of the Lucy’s Law proposal to the government, Dr. Abraham also hoped to dispel the negative myths that many people still hold about dogs in shelters.  These myths, held not only in Britain but all around the globe include:

  • All shelter pets are old.
  • Animal shelters only have dogs and cats.
  • Shelters don’t have purebreds up for adoption.
  • Shelter pets are usually dirty.
  • Shelters are sad places.

And the most common, and most disturbing widely-held myth: shelter pets have behavioral problems or are imperfect.  That ‘there is something wrong with them.’  This is patently FALSE.  Many shelter animals were once family pets who, for one reason or another, find themselves in the new, loud and sometimes scary situation of the shelter.  Ask any shelter manager or volunteer and they’ll tell you the same thing – take a dog out of their kennel, where they may be hiding in a corner, or barking non-stop, or charging the door.  Bring them into the yard or out of their crate, show them some love, and their personality will blossom.  You’ll see the REAL dog or cat.  After all, chances are they weren’t kept in a cage at home.  They once  had a family, a place to sleep, a roof over their head.  Give them a chance to show you who they really are.

A petition with more than 143,000 signatures in support of Lucy’s Law was presented to the government in May.  Major animal charities such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) and celebrities including animal advocate Ricky Gervais were extremely supportive of the initiative. Earlier this year, in case any of his 13 million followers were considering adding a pet to their family, Mr. Gervais tweeted,

“This weekend plan a visit to your local rescue shelter, where your new best friend is waiting for you. #LucysLaw”.

In addition to promoting adoption, the new law will also tackle irresponsible breeding and sale of animals from puppy and kitten mills.  Dr. Abraham stated,

“Lucy’s Law will help end puppy farming, protect the future health and happiness of dogs like poor little Lucy, as well as encourage prospective pet owners to adopt from their local rescue shelter too.”

The British Government is also raising the bar on sentencing animal abusers, and has increased the Court’s ability to assign maximum sentences to up to five years, the harshest sentencing in Europe.

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