Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Ferrets in Transport to Pet Stores

I wanted to post this, when I posted the entry for the USDA proposal changes to Require animals being at least 8 weeks old before being considered for transport, but I cound not find it. This is really heart-breaking (tears are streaming down my face) about ferrets in transport, and I knew that it hard on them, but I did'nt realize what was involved until I read this:

Tiny Noses and Airplanes

I am waiting for them. It is seven in the morning in the middle of September. I listen for the planes outside, the whining of their engines rising as they taxi closer to where I'm working. I'm a security guard at one of the major airline's air cargo centers. I know they're coming, but I don't know exactly which days they'll arrive. I keep my eyes open, watching for them. There are just a few people here with me. There are always just a few people here during working hours, labeling boxes, stacking boxes, driving forklifts, or sometimes just watching TV between arrivals. To these people, what I'm waiting for are just packages, but to me they are so much more.

A forklift rolls in, and I see them come in. I recognize the small wooden slats of the crates, measuring a foot and a half by two feet. There are two crates, one stacked on top of the other. They are on top of some bigger, heavier cargo - electrical components of some kind, bags of coolers containing medical specimens, and a few cardboard boxes with hazmat labels, all placed on the same pallet. The forklift drops them with a thud and drives off. I have to hurry. I only have so much time to do what I need to do. I walk quickly to the pallet of crates. As I get closer, tiny sets of eyes peer through the slats following the sound of my footsteps. I lean down and look through the slats of the top crate. There are about twenty kits, and most of them are awake. The rest are asleep, exhausted from the ordeal of their flight. The ones that are awake are excited by my presence. Some of the kits lick my nose while my face is against the slats. I hear a commotion from the bottom crate, and I move my face down and peer inside. This crate contains roughly another twenty kits, some standing on their back legs, noses sticking out from between the slats, watching me in curiosity.

The floors of both crates are an absolute mess. In a corner of each crate are two cans. One can has a tiny bit of water in the bottom, mixed with some feces. The majority of the water has spilled out of the can and has dampened the pine shavings that the kits are using as bedding. The other can contains a few pieces of kibble that somehow managed to stay in place during the flight. The rest of the kibble is spread throughout the floor of the crate, mixed in with damp shavings and more feces. The conditions of both crates are the same. This is how the kits have traveled for hours.

The cans are not very big, about the size of small tomato sauce cans. Not very much food and water for twenty kits, it would seem. And now the cans are fouled and nearly empty. I reach into my coat and pull out my plastic sports bottle. I fill it with fresh water from the water fountain. Slowly, I squeeze the bottle to release the water. I place the tip between the slats where the kits can reach it easily, but there are too many. The kits who are awake fight each other for a few licks from the bottle. They are so thirsty. They push and shove each other for the water, sometimes crawling on top of each other to get to the bottle, and sometimes pushing themselves up from the bottom. Almost all of the sleeping kits are awake now, roused by the commotion, and they join the melee. There are just too many, and even though I can refill the bottle, none are getting very much water as I stand in one place. I walk around the crate, sliding the water bottle between the slats, moving the bottle so that each of the kits can get a decent drink. After slowly walking around the top crate quite a few times, I move the bottle down to the bottom crate and circle around it in the same manner. The entire time, kits from both crates follow me as I circle around them, every once in a while standing on their back feet and sticking their noses out, vying for my attention. They are so cute, and as much as I want to stroke their little noses, I simply can't. There's not enough time.

I hear the whining of the jet engines getting louder. I have to hurry. More planes are coming in, and these pallets will probably be moved to make room for the newly arrived cargo. I don't always know where they take them. I refill the water bottle at the drinking fountain. I then squirt streams of water into all four cans in an effort to clean them. It is not a perfect job, but the cans are cleaner than they were before. Even as I'm doing this, the kits are trying to drink the dirty water that's streaming from the cans. Once finished, I fill one can in each crate with water. I then pull a bag of kibble I have brought from home out of my coat pocket and fill the other two cans with the kibble. A small scramble ensues, and the kits eat and drink from all four cans. They are no longer moving in the belly of a plane, so they should be OK. My job requires that I attend to other, more official duties. I have to leave the kits now. I need to make my rounds. The pet stores are supposed to send someone to pick up the kits as soon as possible after they arrive, but often that doesn't happen. If the kits are not picked up within a few hours, they are stored with luggage and other freight in a secured area, sometimes until the next morning. This is the last I will probably see of them.

It is the next morning; it is September eleventh. It is just after nine in the morning and all the freight-handlers are watching TV. There is nothing to do. All planes have been grounded. One of our planes has been flown into one of the Twin Towers, probably by terrorists. Shortly afterwards, another company's plane hits the other tower. Everyone is in shock. The fiery crashes are replayed over and over again, and we watch in disbelief. I realize that I will not be seeing any thirsty kits today. Most of our planes transport animals, and my heart sinks as I wonder about the plane that hit the tower. I reach into my pocket and feel my sports bottle, pathetically empty and useless. I close my eyes and think back to all those tiny noses between the slats, thirsty and looking for attention...Later, when I get home from work, the first thing I see as I walk in the door are my own tiny noses, sticking out of the bars of their cage, waiting for me as they always do. And even though their water bottles are mostly full, I empty and refill them - just because I can.

Also read this post, ferret organizations had tried to change the minimun age for transport several years ago, but it didn't pass. I hope that it passes this year.

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