We can yet right this ship!!

write in response to the author of the pessimistic letters on population control and climate change. I must say that there are days when I share his unsanguine view of the potential of the human race to right itself. And yet….

Let’s try to create an historical analogy to the mess in which we find ourselves at present. I liken our predicament to a passenger on HMS Titanic, which passenger has knowledge that the ship is hurtling full speed towards an iceberg laced area. As he is not a uniformed member of the crew, our passenger has no official duty to share his knowledge with those who can make a difference in the ship’s course. He has then, two alternatives as I see it. One, the passenger can sit back, remain silent, curse the idiots on the bridge for their willful blindness, and hope that the ship miraculously avoids the icebergs known to be in her path. Alternatively, the passenger can recognize and assume an unwritten duty for the preservation of life, and because the fate of each life on the ship is interwoven, choose to raise the alarm, again and again and again, using every means possible to convey the urgency and direness of the ship’s position. Will the alarm be heeded? I don’t know, but it seems to me far more worthwhile to endeavor to turn things around, no matter how much effort it takes, rather than naively hope that despite evidence to the contrary, all may yet be well. So I urge the author of those letters, and all who believe that SS Earth is on a collision course with an undesirable future, to keep raising the alarm and never give up. The only alternative option appears to be the likelihood of a devastating shipwreck.

Well, we want to raise the alarm, but where to begin? First, we humans must alter radically our view of our place in nature. For too long we have seen ourselves as lords of the manor with all the rights and privileges appertaining thereto, free to consume, pollute and squander with no thought for the deleterious effect of such selfishness on all other life on this planet, not to mention the deleterious effect on our own lives. We must come to see, understand, and act upon the now obvious truth: we are but one of innumerable species all sharing the fragility and wonder of life on this tiny spec of a rock in our vast (beyond all conception) universe. All life is intertwined, and all that we do, or fail to do, affects all other life on this planet. We must eschew outworn creeds that encourage humans to treat the earth as our oyster, and we must seek an ethos that compels us to examine our actions with a view towards protection and enhancement of the biosphere.

OK, what is that ethos? What replaces the anthropocentric dogmas that have driven human life for centuries? There are many candidates, but I always return to Albert Schweitzer’s “Reverence for Life” as our ideal driving force. As Schweitzer said: “A man is ethical, only where life, as such, is sacred to him, that of plants and animals as that of his fellow men, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help. “ Is it a perfect credo? No, but it gets us started and points us in the right direction. Humans must examine each proposed action, program, process, and plan with a reverence for life in mind. We must ask of each proposal in front of us: is the current model with its attendant destruction of life, of animal life, plants, trees, wetlands, habitats, absolutely necessary? Is there no other less intrusive way? Can we not find a way to seek our ends and simultaneously enhance the biosphere for as much life as possible?

Armed with that ethos, what are the steps to implement it in our behavior. How does it become embedded in human life? The answer is easy (not so implementation, of course): our institutions must adopt this ethos as their own and factor it into their decision making processes. Which institutions? Government first of all. Elected officials must exercise their authority in a way that preserves and enhances the biosphere for all life, not just for those humans with wealth (and thereby influence) who wish to destroy wildlife habitats in the name of large agricultural enterprises, sprawling housing developments or endless strip malls with their attendant macadamed parking lots. Next comes organized religion. For millenia religions have placed man as the center of the universe, and with such placement religions have given man Carte Blanche to fell forests, slaughter animals and wildlife, pollute rivers, the atmosphere and the oceans, and yes, over populate, all with thoughtless impunity. This must change. Humans are wreaking havoc on our planet at an alarming rate. Our excesses must be curbed, and this means that religion must, frankly, put us in our proper place: as stewards of the environment, not gluttonous consumers. Finally comes education. Our school systems must inculcate in us at an early age, and continue through all grades, a sense of responsibility to all life on this planet, an awareness that as the most intelligent and organized species on the earth, we hold our planet’s well being in trust for all other life. As trustees we are obligated to do our level best to protect and preserve that life, and our education system must teach this knowledge and reinforce it with actual involvement by students in Eco-friendly projects.

Now the hard part already alluded to—how do we do this? How do we make this happen? If Tip O’Neill was right that all politics is local, then perhaps we can extrapolate from that adage that all useful change is local as well, or at least it begins locally. Locally what we can we do? We can demand that our public officials listen to us regarding the protection of the biosphere, wildlife and their habitats, wetlands, springs and all life and nature. Let us work against those who see Ocala’s future as nothing more than the hideous sprawl mentioned earlier, and let us find and support those candidates who cherish all life, will work to promote renewable energy and other green programs, and who see Ocala as an Eco-tourism mecca.

For religion, for those profess faith work with your churches, synagogues and so forth to advocate for a change in how humans are viewed as outlined earlier. Work for sermons that adopt this view, and take organizational action as a religious institution that reinforces the concept of a reverence for life, of man as steward of his surroundings, not master. And of course, change your own views—realize that man is not the be all and end all of life, but merely one player in this world with an unparalleled capacity to destroy everything.

In the realm of education work with teachers, principals and school boards to ensure that the human duty of ecological stewardship is understood and taught to all students, reinforced by field trips and volunteer efforts. In fact, in Florida you can help bring about the statutorily mandated teaching of humane education, and, to cite a Florida statute:


(b) When recommending instructional materials for use in the schools, each committee shall include only materials which

accurately portray, whenever appropriate, humankind’s place in ecological systems, including the necessity for the protection of our environment and conservation of our natural resources.


So, when you advocate for protecting the biosphere, for enhancing life, you have the law on your side in Florida. All we need do is convince school systems that here is a law worthy of their time and attention.

There you have it—a blueprint for change advocacy. You may well be rebuffed many times. In each such instance just dust yourself off and politely resume the discussion. Will you change things? I don’t know. But I do know that a failure to make this attempt will lead inexorably to a calamitous outcome. This may be our last opportunity to set a proper and safe course before irreversible damage takes place, so keep those letters coming.


Ad astra per ardua!


Robert Echols


For Our Friends the Animals Foundation

So glad we can partner with Project Pup and Meals on Wheels

Please see article in today’s Ocala Star Banner.  http://www.ocala.com/news/20160918/project-pup-needs-help-bagging-food-for-pets-of-seniors

Very nice article (see link below) in today’s (September 19) Ocala Star Banner.  For Our Friends the Animals is privileged to partner with Project Pup and Meals on Wheels (MOW) to bring pet food to MOW recipients who have animals.  Without this service many MOW recipients would share their lunches with their pets, meaning that neither human nor animal receive their basic nutritional and dietary needs.  With this partnership all affected creatures receive adequate nourishment.  This is what having a reverence for life is all about–acting with compassion to take whatever actions we can to enhance the lives of those we touch.  My thanks to Project Pup and Meals on Wheels for allowing me this chance to be of service.

Pax vobiscum.


Human Perfidy on Parade

Today’s (September 14, 2016) Ocala Star Banner has an AP wire story reporting 46 young sea birds found dead on Florida’s Gulf Coast.  Probable cause?–millions of gallons of municipal sewage dumped into the Gulf. Once again humans pollute the environment and kill flora and fauna, and once again nobody gives a damn.  If some child had fallen into this human made cesspool and died, the outcry would have been immediate and earsplitting.  Here, because no humans were harmed in the making of this ecological disaster, no comment from anyone.

For the likes of Rick Scott and his band of merry environmental butchers, this is a good business decision. It’s low cost, and nobody gets hurt–what could be better?

Isn’t it time we humans realized that we are stewards of the environment, that we hold it in trust for all life, and that to despoil anyone’s home or habitat is to despoil our own?

We must understand that all life is precious and intertwined, that we are a part of the biosphere, not the owners.

This is truly tragic, but I fear, only a harbinger of things to come.

For Our Friends the Animals will continue to press for habitat protection, for the protection of all life, for humans to realize our obligations vis-à-vis our ambient surroundings.

Vox clamantis in deserto?

We must create habitats

We must protect entire habitats, not just individual species


So the Florida Fish and Wildlife (sic) Commission has sanctioned another slaughter of innocents–this time alligators.  It must be evident now that government wildlife organizations exist not to protect the wildlife under their domain, but rather to adjust the populations of these wildlife such that humans are incommoded as little as possible.  Accordingly, any living undomesticated creature that has had the bad luck to run afoul of burgeoning human expansion can expect to be “harvested”, in the word of the commission spokesperson.

With the expected exponential growth of the number of humans calling Florida home, the upshot of this equation is obvious.  More humans results in more nuisance interactions, and so bears, alligators, deer, possum, coyotes, raccoons, poisonous snakes, maybe all snakes because some humans are frightened by them, predatory birds, water fowl, and the beat goes on, face “harvesting”  by human hands.  How unfeeling are the people, supposedly charged with enhancing wildlife, who Bowdlerize the deaths of those species by equating those deaths with reaping a wheat crop.  Guess pollinators will require harvesting as well, as some pollinators may actually sting a human.

It must also be evident by now that no human, or group of humans, has the multidisciplinary knowledge and training to be able to state with any certainty the numbers of alligators, bears, deer, bees, or butterflies which are required to maintain a healthy ecosystem.  What is certain is that the continued destruction of ecosystems and habitats by human sprawl is having a devastating effect on the environment.  There are many who believe the tipping point has been reached and that, thanks to humans, life on earth is on its last legs.  I prefer to remain optimistic that things can be changed, but such change must be drastic and quick.

First, we humans must establish large swaths of land dedicated solely to habitat enhancement and protection.  Human development of any kind would be prohibited in these reserves; only benign human stewardship would be permitted.  By the creation and defense of these large habitats, we will be able to offer a thriving environment to all living things that call such a habitat home.  We must recognize that all life is sacred and interdependent.  Man is not the measure of all things, but by our intelligence and organizational capacity we can be the curators, the stewards of all things.  We must come to understand that the butterfly effect is real, that harming one species, one element of the habitat, harms all life in the habitat, including ours.  We are all in this together.

Second, we must teach our children that the unjustified and unwarranted taking of any life, e.g.  the upcoming alligator butchery, must be viewed not with joy and satisfaction, but with sadness and revulsion.  Our ethos must be a reverence for life, all life.  John Donne was correct, but he didn’t go far enough–the unjustified taking of any life diminishes us all, for we all share thus habitat together.  Life, being sacred and worthy of protection, is only to be ended when such an act promotes a greater good and there is no other alternative.


I believe government at all levels is best suited in terms of resources to bring about these changes, but not as currently constituted.  In Florida let’s combine all wildlife and ecological/environmental functions into one central authority: the Florida Habitat Authority.  This body would be invested with the clout and the resources to purchase and manage tracts of land as described above. The mission is not to protect individual species, which, as noted, we humans have botched pretty thoroughly. Rather, by creating large habitats free from human encroachment, nature will be allowed to do what nature does best—balance itself out.

Private citizens will have a crucial role to play as well, not only in encouraging our political leaders to enact the necessary legislation, but also by both acquiring land and easements dedicated to the habitat, and most especially, by furthering  humane education for our children.  We must ensure that our children develop and practice a reverence for life, nurturing a realization that we all in this together.  We all come from the same stardust.

The For Our Friends the Animals Foundation will devote its resources to bringing about these changes in habitat creation and usage and in humane education.



Who will join us?


Time to deal differently with wildlife

Time to re-examine how we deal with wildlife.


In the wake of the horrible misfortune at the Cincinnati zoo and the upcoming Florida bear hunt (sic), it is high time we re-examine how we, the human race, treat the wildlife that lives on our planet.  Why?  The moral arc is clearly trending towards an awareness and creation of animal rights and protections, yet just as clearly we have such a long way to go.

Virginia Morel spells it out most eloquently: ”No matter how different our morphology, we animals are basically alike because of our shared evolutionary past. But animal bodies are equipped with sensory cells and brains…What do the minds of animals tell us about ourselves? That, like us, they think and feel and experience the world. They have moments of anger, and sorrow, and love. Their animal minds tell us that they are our kin. Now that we know this, will our relationship with them change?”

It must change, and here is a suggestion for a way forward.  In my view, this change requires both a micro and a macro approach.  First let’s apply the micro approach to Cincinnati and Florida.

The micro approach informs (or should inform) human behavior regarding interactions with a single animal or a small group of animals.  The most useful approach is one advanced a century ago by Dr. Albert Schweitzer and not much improved upon since then; namely, a reverence for life.  Dr. Schweitzer further defines this reverence as:

“Man’s ethics must not end with man, but should extend to the universe. He must regain the consciousness of the great chain of life from which he cannot be separated. He must understand that all creation has its value. Life should only be negated when it is for a higher value and purpose — not merely in selfish or thoughtless actions. What then results for man is not only a deepening of relationships, but a widening of relationships.”

Examining the Cincinnati tragedy against this standard, it seems clear that a reverence for life was followed.  While we may question the care provided by the parents and the safety standards followed by the zoo, once the child had fallen into the gorilla enclosure an immediate decision was required.  That the gorilla, even without malice, could have easily injured or killed the child is not in question, and given the need for quick action, only the taking of the gorilla’s   life could have saved the child.  It was a necessity that could not have been avoided, and certainly zoo officials acted with great thoughtfulness and regret before euthanizing the gorilla.

As for the sanctioned slaughter of a Florida bear, that activity does not pass muster under a reverence for life standard.  There is no necessity here that could not have been avoided, and the proposed slaughter resembles far more a thoughtless trophy hunt for a small group of humans rather than the result of thorough research and deliberation.  The arguments against the bear killing have all been made and merrily ignored by the state of Florida.  But as hope springs eternal, and as I have not yet given up the belief that there is still some compassion left in human hearts, here they are again:

The killing of a bear in this situation is the antithesis of a reverence for life, as there is no higher value or purpose served—this is killing for the sake and enjoyment of killing;

The killing allows humans to escape responsibility for a problem we created;

The killing underscores and reinforces the notion that violence is an acceptable solution to our problems; and

It flies in the face of the Florida charter to teach humane education and act accordingly.


On a micro level, Schweitzer’s reverence for life is the proper moral principle to guide our actions viz-a-viz encounters with single or small groups of wildlife. We run into difficulties, however, trying to apply this philosophy to a broader spectrum of human/wildlife interactions.  At the macro level, an ethos with more breadth is indicated, and the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare seem to fit the bill nicely.

The five freedoms as currently expressed are:

  1. Freedom from hunger or thirst by ready access to fresh water and a diet to maintain full health and vigor
  2. Freedom from discomfort by providing an appropriate environment including shelter and a comfortable resting area
  3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease by prevention or rapid diagnosis and treatment
  4. Freedom to express (most) normal behavior by providing sufficient space, proper facilities and company of the animal’s own kind
  5. Freedom from fear and distress by ensuring conditions and treatment which avoid mental suffering


With the five freedoms as our moral guide, let’s take a satellite view of zoos and bear hunts.

For any zoo, there will be problems and issues in meeting freedoms 2, 4 and 5, and as such it is now time to discuss and assess whether zoos serve any useful purpose at all.  We must view wildlife, all animals, as possessing some basic rights of existence, not solely as an entertainment venue for us.  Even though most zoos have moved beyond simply caging animals in small, barred enclosures, the “natural” habitats in which most zoo species are now housed are only a small inmprovement.  Let’s face it, zoos exist primarily to enable humans to gawk at other species in captivity and for few other reasons, and the time has come to switch zoos out and replace them with large, open animal preserves.  These preserves will have 2 functions:

  1. to allow the animals within the preserve to enjoy as many of the five freedoms as possible and to the greatest extent, and
  2. to teach the human animal about our place in the biosphere and the need for intelligent, compassionate stewardship.

As to the bear hunt, when measured against the five freedoms it is an unmitigated disaster.  We in Florida have sanctioned an event that will violate all five principles.  What is needed is not slaughter, but rather large tracts of land, including wildlife corridors where bears (and the myriad other creatures who share their environment) can roam freely and safely.


The time has come to rethink and redefine how we interact with and treat wildlife.  For micro interactions, a reverence for life shows the way.  For macro interactions, applying the five freedoms provides the moral rationale to guide our conduct.  As with all human maxims, they are imperfect and will require thoughtful and careful implementation.  That said, they share one key human value that needs to come to the fore: they encourage a compassionate stewardship towards our fellow creatures, a realization that this planet is not our sandbox but rather an environment that we share and for which we are now responsible.  As earth’s most intelligent, advanced, and organized dwellers, we owe our fellow denizens nothing less.


Robert M. Echols


For Our Friends the Animals Foundation

Time for all people everywhere to come together and work as stewards of our environment.

This from today’s (May 1, 2016) Ocala Star-Banner.



Let us, indeed, be humane!
Well, there they go again. Once again we face another sanctioned killing of bears, and yet again we’ll create some euphemism for the slaughter such as management or harvesting or weeding, or some such. Call it what you will, the essence of the deed remains unchanged: it is the unprovoked and unacceptable taking of life, pure and simple.
Let us once more charge into the breech and outline the arguments against the slaughter. At the conclusion of this letter, though, please note a new call to action, one around which every person in Marion county can rally.
The killing of bears is the antithesis of a reverence for life. This phrase was most famously coined by Dr. Albert Schweitzer. His words still resonate a century later: “Man’s ethics must not end with man, but should extend to the universe. He must regain the consciousness of the great chain of life from which he cannot be separated. He must understand that all creation has its value. Life should only be negated when it is for a higher value and purpose — not merely in selfish or thoughtless actions. What then results for man is not only a deepening of relationships, but a widening of relationships.”
The bear slaughter is both thoughtless and selfish and utterly devoid of compassion. Thoughtless, because short shrift, at best, has been given to alternative, long term, less invasive solutions. Selfish because the slaughter aids only human beings, and to be frank, a very small number of them. Worse still, the slaughter is totally lacking in compassion for another sentient being, one aspect of life on this planet that does set humans apart from other living creatures. We can show mercy, or at a minimum, we can strive to do no harm. That’s what having a reverence for life is all about.
The slaughter lets humans escape responsibility for a problem entirely of our own making. The bears did not cause this problem. They seek only to live in what is a rapidly dwindling habitat. Human development in Florida has nearly reached the tipping point wherein the entire state will be reduced to one continuous stretch of CBS homes. Habitat destruction caused by thoughtless human sprawl has put all wildlife, bears included, at risk, as the environments upon which they depend for their existence are radically altered and degraded. With little room and food left to them, it is no wonder that bears are moving into areas now occupied by humans. The saddest aspect of this situation is that we humans, as beings given to ratiocination, have the capacity for remediation. We can actively choose to make things right, to be stewards of our environment, rather than consumers and destroyers. It is not too late, but the clock is ticking.
The slaughter underscores the presumption that violence is an acceptable solution to our problems. One has only to read the papers or watch reality crime shows to encounter the obvious: violence is rampant and growing more acceptable as a remedy to what ails us. Actions that once might have caused a shrug of the shoulders or a curse word muttered under one’s breath now lead to unimaginable acts of brutality and heartlessness. Tempers quickly flare and guns are as quickly drawn with predictable consequences. What is needed is an effort to stem violence, to have us realize that violence is not an acceptable solution to the problems that befall us on a daily basis. A taking of life sanctioned by the state erodes efforts of peacemakers to resolve issues that confront us. The bear slaughter is the solution of a throwaway society: if there’s a problem, kill the nuisance and toss it away. Oh by the way: it is small step indeed from ending the lives of quadrupeds viewed as nuisances to exacting the same fate from bipeds that annoy us. Germany and other states have climbed that step already.

The slaughter erases any good that might come from humane education for our children. Two Florida statutes, 233.061 and 233.09, require that humane education be taught in our public schools. Whether these statutes are being followed and to what degree are subjects for another letter. Suffice it to say that the State of Florida speaks from both sides of its mouth. There is nothing humane about the sanctioned killing of innocent animals, and the duplicity of the state will be apparent to all children who are told one thing and then witness adults do the exact opposite. Children need to understand that we humans are just one inhabitant of the biosphere, and as the inhabitant most able to understand and solve problems (most of which are of our own making), it is incumbent upon us to act as stewards for the betterment and enhancement of all living things. That’s what humane education should be all about.
And now the call to action. It seems futile indeed to ask anyone to contact his/her state representatives, as the empty suits in Tallahassee have ignored the will of the public with appalling arrogance. Rather, let us deal with people who appear more receptive to the plight of animals. I call upon the Marion County Commissioners to issue a proclamation condemning the bear hunt, standing for the proposition that Marion County residents believe there are other solutions to the issue and are willing to invest the thought and effort to effectuate those solutions. Even if the proclamation is nonbinding and has naught but exhortatory value, that act alone sends a message that we in this county care about our environment and the biosphere and are ready to accept the responsibility that human stewardship brings.

Dum inter homines sumus, colamus humanitatem

Robert M. Echols
For Our Friends the Animals Foundation


What pets need

I love this photo–taken from a class on what pets need–this has a St. Patty’s theme, and the items pets need: food,shelter, family, and water are set forth on the paws of an animal.  So important to reach our children with humane education, because so many in our area grow up in environments where what we term animal abuse is simply accepted behavior.  Kids need to learn the difference and to adopt compassion for all living things–that’s what a reverence for life is all about!

A no-kill county–the time has come!

A No-kill county—the time has come.


It is time for Marion County to become a no-kill county, a county in which healthy animals brought to our shelters, rescues, and sanctuaries, whether public or private, find their lives enhanced and protected rather than taken.

First let’s focus on the reasons in favor of going no-kill, and then we’ll discuss what it will take to get us there.

Why go no-kill?


  1. It’s the right thing to do. Becoming no-kill enhances an overall reverence for life, a philosophy that favors and promotes that which enhances life while disfavoring and stifling that which undermines it. A reverence for life will manifest itself in how we interact with all flora and fauna, assisting us in nurturing our environment, making ecologically friendly decisions, and maybe, through becoming an eco-tourism county, sharing our good fortune with others.
  2. It will help humans be accountable for their actions. We are a throwaway society. Too much garbage, just dump a bag of it along the highway.  Too many cigarettes in your ashtray, empty it in a public parking lot for all to enjoy.  Unwanted animals, just dispose of them.  Just as it is a short step from animal to human abuse, the step is even shorter from treating animals as disposable commodities to treating all living things in the same fashion, even each other.
  3. It will force us to remedy the many causes of animal neglect. Related to and stemming from #2 above, if we can’t just dispose of an unwanted animal and must live with the consequences of our actions, then we are more likely to address the situations that lead to unwanted animals in the first place. More on that in the next section.
  4. And if you are not sold on the first three reasons, then go watch them die. Each year our county, and we are certainly not alone in this, kills some 50% of the animals we take in. Just imagine looking into the eyes of a perfectly healthy young animal about to die because no human would take care of it, would take ownership of a human created problem.  Chat with the employees who kill the animals, who do our dirty work for us.  Perhaps you will shed a tear for the plight of these poor creatures whose only crime was to entrust their lives to human decency, and maybe you will be motivated to do something about that plight.


What can we do?


  1. Increase our capacity to house animals. If we are to go no kill, then in the first year(s) there will be a spike in the number of animals for which we’ll be responsible.  We must be ready to meet this increase by a concomitant increase in our capacity.  This will mean more resources for the county, but it will also mean that every shelter, rescue, etc. in Marion will have to focus solely on animals in our county.  Those of us who take in and support the importation of animals from other counties and states will need to cease that practice, at least until our county animal problem has evened out.  We will also need to look to other means of housing animals, such as the use of greyhound and other dog breeding facilities, county incarceration facilities (what a great chance to have more inmates involved with the caring for live animals!), and we will need more volunteers to help staff.  More on the sources of volunteers in a moment.
  2. We will have to increase spaying and neutering capacity in our county several fold, and such operations must be available at a reasonable cost. Rather than make use of an old bus (neuter commuter) susceptible to periodic break downs, let’s purchase 6-8 horse trailers and outfit them as mobile veterinarian offices.  These trailers can be transported by a pick up around the county and would increase the number of spays and neuters considerably.  This must occur in order for us to get the number of animals needing our care to a manageable number over time.  Additionally, we will need licensed vets in our county to step up and agree to perform these surgeries, preferably at no cost but at least at low cost so all county residents can avail themselves of this opportunity.
  3. We will need to up the tnr (trap, neuter, release) program for feral cats. This can be done by implementing the ideas in #2 above, but specifically aimed at the (presumably) thousands of ferals in our county. While this process does take time to reduce the excess population, it has been shown to be effective in so doing, and we must engage in every effective activity to reduce unwanted pets.
  4. We must increase humane education, not just among our seniors but also among our kids. We have a sizeable senior population in our county, many with companion animals and pets.  Too often when a senior dies or is unable to take care of a pet any longer, there is no one to come forward and assume responsibility.  Children are often far away and don’t want the added burden of mom’s dogs or cats.  We must get to our retirement and other elderly communities with ideas on how best to safeguard and care for pets where a senior can no longer perform that service.  As for school kids, Florida statutes 233.061(j) and 233.09(c) mandate the teaching of humane education in our schools.  I suspect we could be doing a much better job of meeting these requirements, and there would be no more useful way to do so than to teach no-kill as part of a reverence for life.
  5. We need more volunteers. Particularly as the number of animals needing care spikes in the first few years. Volunteers could come from inmates, from school kids, and from the many retired people living here in Marion.  For the latter, just give up one golf round, one day at the bingo game, to get involved in helping animals.  To be truly human is think rationally, then to act with compassion on that rational thought.  Volunteering to help us reach a no kill status is just such a way of showing our humanity.


All this will of course require additional funding, and For Our Friends stands ready to join with other like-minded foundations and people to help defray costs. In the end, however, I trust that the tax payers and Commissioners of our county will come to see this as money well spent.

In sum, the moral arc does seem to be bending towards better treatment of animals. Here in Marion, let’s do our part to help it along.


Pax vobiscum!


Robert M. Echols


For Our Friends the Animals Foundation

Jail is not the answer!!

Jail is not the answer.


In response to the article on maltreated horses in today’s (Jan 30, 2016) Ocala Star Banner.


While I understand and am somewhat sympathetic to the outrage felt over the malnourished horses, I can’t help but opine that there must be a different solution to this problem besides incarceration of the horse owners.

First let’s be pragmatic. The Marion County justice system (Sheriff’s Office, prosecuting attorneys and judiciary)  are already stretched to the limit of their resources, perhaps even beyond that point.  Jails are crowded, dockets are jammed and backlogged, and our constabulary currently has their hands full combatting the drug related and other violent crime so prevalent in our county.  Frankly I would much rather expend our meager resources preventing and resolving the all too many instances of depravity that confront us in daily life.

Second, the desire to put these people in prison appears to be based more on a sense of retributive, rather than restorative justice. What is needed here is an atmosphere where the care of horses is paramount, where consideration and compassion, all under the heading of a reverence for life, abound.  My theory is that, perhaps unlike the situation regarding cats and dogs (more on that in another post), much if not most maltreatment of horses is a matter of neglect, not abuse.  While some may view this as a nice distinction based on legalese and semantics, to me it is a distinction of the utmost importance.  As noted by Morgan Silver, the care and feeding of horses is very expensive, sometimes prohibitively so.  Proper horse ownership calls for money, time, patience, and energy in large amounts.  Many people, no doubt well-intentioned, believe they can care for a certain number of horses.  Then, due to age, infirmity, a reversal of fortune or a combination of all of the above, horse ownership becomes a financial burden, if not impossibility.  Under nourished and improperly cared for horses is the result.

We need an atmosphere in which horse care is our overarching concern, with blame laying a distant second. The atmosphere must be conducive to reporting horse issues, both by horse owners and by neighbors and others who come across these situations.  To the extent that criminality is attached to a situation of animal neglect (I differentiate between outright torture or cruelty where no mercy need be shown), to that extent will people be reluctant to make a report of horses in need of rescue.

So what’s the solution?

For starters, I recommend that every horse rescue, shelter, sanctuary, etc., whether nonprofit or not, be required to be licensed by the county.   The license fees will cover the administrative cost of this program, which program will be administered by the Marion County Animal Services (MCAC) and will include periodic announced and unannounced inspections of all such rescues.  Very much like the long term care program in Florida, there will be common standards and checklists to guide inspectors, and all rescues, etc. will be required to post the results of the inspections on their websites and in their places of operation.  The inspection results would also be made public via the county website and could also be published in local news media.

Also in keeping with the format of the long term program, animal ombudsmen, under the auspices and tutelage of the Marion County Animal Control, could be trained to perform some or all of their inspections. In this way we can create a force multiplier of the MCAC professionals, while also creating a cadre of people able to provide educational talks, etc. on the subject of humane animal treatment.  The education program would include the distribution of posters with a number where any one with concerns regarding horse treatment, including horse owners, could call and voice those concerns.  Horse owners in need of help could also call for assistance in caring for horses.  Much better to bring the matter out into the open and provide care than to wait until the horses are several hundred pounds underweight, or worse.

Also regarding education, the county can increase its efforts to comply with the Florida statutes mandating the teaching of humane education in our public schools. Having the cadre of animal care ombudsmen, the MCAS professionals, a group of veterinarians, and maybe even those found to have neglected their horses as part of their rehabilitation, should provide for enough trained people to supplement efforts of county teachers to bring this statute home to our kids.

Finally, as we in Marion County purport to be the horse capital of the world, let the wealthy horse owners unite and create an entity to manage a facility where neglected horses can be bought for treatment. We have so many horse people with unbridled (no pun intended) wealth who could easily lend their money and names to such an undertaking.  It is shameful that our county has not done so before now.  Let us lavish attention not only on future Triple Crown winners, but on all horses in our county.


That’s what having a reverence for life is all about.